Manchester City slipped to third as they were hammered at home by Liverpool and having also lost to Juventus in midweek, the Citizens will have a lot to prove on Sunday afternoon. Southampton’s winning run came to an end as they were beaten by Stoke at St Mary’s, while several selection issues could have a detrimental effect on their chances of escaping defeat at Etihad.
Had they played to their potential, Manchester City would be sitting at the Premier League summit now, boasting a considerable advantage over their title rivals, but the reality is they occupy the third position, two points behind surprise leaders Leicester City. In all fairness, the Citizens had plenty of injuries to contend with, but even though the likes of Aguero, Silva, Kompany, Zabaleta and Delph all spend weeks on the sidelines, Manuel Pellegrini’s side should have done a lot better. Such an expensively assembled squad have got to be capable of keeping the results respectable even when key men are unavailable, but their recent performances have proved the team are still far too reliant on the likes of Aguero, Silva and Kompany. Summer recruits Sterling, Delph and De Bruyne have yet to hit the ground running, whereas it looks as though Yaya Toure is now well past his prime. The lack of confidence could prove to be a problem now that Manchester City suffered three slip-ups in a row, with goalless draw at Villa Park followed by back to back defeats to Liverpool and Juventus. Even with Aguero and Silva both in the match squad, the hosts should struggled to break rock-solid Southampton given the poor spirits the players are in. While Kompany, Zabaleta, Mangala and Nasri are not yet ready to return, Joe Hart is out with a hamstring problem.
Sitting in eighth place in the Premier League standings, just a couple of points behind European positions is pretty much where Southampton expected to be before the season started, meaning Ronald Koeman and his charges can be pretty happy with how things have panned out. The return to form of playmaker Dusan Tadic and good displays from the somewhat changed back line give the Saints even more reason for optimism, in spite of the fact that their eight-match unbeaten run came to an end last weekend. Starting from the 6-0 hammering of MK Dons in the Capital One Cup, the team notched out eight very good performances in a row (W6 D2), and they were probably the better team in the narrow defeat to Stoke, but that obviously do not count for much. Without Graziano Pelle (suspension) and Jay Rodriguez (injury), the Saints could be toothless up front, especially considering that Sadio Mane and Shane Long have had some injury problems of late, but the rock-solid back line, which only conceded more than one goal in two of last 16 games, should be able to frustrate their more illustrious opponents. With Jordy Clasie, Vincent Wanyama and Steven Davis also helping out, I wouldn’t bet on Manchester City improving the poor scoring record that saw them register just one goal in last three fixtures.
With David Silva and Sergio Aguero still struggling for form, just like the majority of the attack-minded players in the squad, Man City will have problems trying to break hard-working Saints. Following the home loss to Stoke, Southampton would be quite happy with one point from Etihad, so we fully expect them to adopt a cautious approach.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 6/5