Following the good performance in the opening draw with Newcastle United, Southampton will fancy their chances of recording the first win of the campaign when they host out-of-sorts Everton. The Toffees narrowly avoided defeat to Watford at their Goodison Park and it is clear a major improvement is needed if they are to get something from St Mary’s.
Southampton are widely regarded as one of England’s healthiest clubs considering that they heavily rely on their own youth academy that has produced many of country’s hottest prospects in recent years. And while the Saints are unable to resist selling their key players for substantial profit, they always ensure to sign decent replacements and keep the team competitive. Last season’s seventh-place finish was seen as major success, especially since many had tipped them to be involved in the relegation tussle and there is a feeling that Ronald Koeman’s side can do even better this term. Yes, Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne have been sold, but Jordy Clasie and Cedric Soares appear to be very good replacements. With no major changes in the squad during pre-season, Southampton were again able to hit the ground running early on, recording a 5-0 aggregate win over Chelsea’s feeder club Vitesse Arnhem before playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Newcastle at St James’ Park. The Saints were the better team in their opening Premier League fixture and with their next opponents far from the desired form, the first league win appears on the cards. Manager Ronald Koeman returns to the dugout after undergoing an Achilles surgery, but Jordy Clasie, Steven Caulker, Florian Gardos and Fraser Forster remain sidelined. The good news is Ryan Bertrand returns to the side.
The time when Everton were challenging for Champions League positions seems like a distant past now and the fans are slowly becoming frustrated with club’s lack of ambition. The Toffees are coming on the back off one of the most disappointing seasons in recent years, with bottom-table finish considered a very disappointing result. With that in mind, Everton faithful hoped the squad would be seriously reinforced during close season, but their prays were not answered as Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu remain the only notable signings of the summer. And with Romelu Lukaku struggling for form after returning from injury, the Toffees do not look like the side that can fight for European qualification this season. The fact that talented footballers John Stones and James McCarthy are being linked with moves away from the club is not helping either, so it is clear that manager Roberto Martinez has his work cut out for him at the moment. Everton were pretty disappointing in the opening draw with Watford even if they twice came from behind to earn one point, and I seriously doubt they can match in-form Saints at St Mary’s. The likes of Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu could return to the side, but Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar, Muhamed Besic, Aiden McGeady, Tony Hibbert and Darron Gibson are out injured.
Southampton already appear to be in decent form for the start of the season and they will be looking to take advantage of the good moment when they host struggling Everton. The Toffees definitely look like relegation strugglers at the moment and I don’t think they can avoid defeat at St Mary’s.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 19/20
Bookmaker: William Hill