Best Odds: 12/5
Southampton remained in the hunt for European positions with a 4-2 triumph over rock-bottom Aston Villa, but their top 6 ambitions will be seriously tested this weekend as the Saints play host to Manchester City. Meanwhile, the Citizens need to keep winning if they want to secure automatic Champions League qualification, although the clash at St Mary’s comes at a bad time, sandwiched between high-profile games against Real Madrid.
Southampton have performed quite well this season, but the fact they rarely made the headlines owes it to some impressive performances of Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, who have clearly stolen the spotlight. The lack of strength in depth affected the Saints’ displays at times, and their key men were pretty inconsistent this term, but third consecutive top 8 finish has got to be considered a good result. There is still time for Southampton to improve their league position as they sit one and two points behind Liverpool and West Ham respectively, although it has to be noted that their top 6 rivals both have a game in hand. With the Saints facing Man City and Spurs in next two matches, their results could have an impact on the title chase and race for the third automatic Champions League berth, so there will be plenty at stake when they host Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. Ronald Koeman’s charges have done fairly well at home of late, winning five of last seven matches at St Mary’s, defeating West Ham and Liverpool in the process, so they definitely have reason for optimism ahead of the Man City game.
Jordy Clasie, Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane are all pushing for starting places, while Jay Rodriguez was handed his first start after recovering from a difficult injury.
Romanian defender Florin Gardos has resumed training following a lengthy lay-off, but he is unlikely to play again this season.
In spite of some under-par performances in the first part of the campaign, Manchester City have successfully turned this season around, giving the fans plenty of reason for hope ahead of the arrival of Pep Guardiola. His predecessor Manuel Pellegrini may not have taken the team as far as he could, but the Chilean appears determined to say goodbye with a strong finish to his reign. The Citizens have already lifted the Capital One Cup trophy, while climbing back to third in the league standings, but it was their Champions League campaign that has been making the headlines of late. Man City impressed to get past star-studded Paris Saint-Germain and after holding Real Madrid to a goalless draw at Etihad, they are not without chances of reaching the final. The problem is that the Southampton game comes just three days ahead of the return leg at Santiago Bernabeu, meaning that the manager will be tempted to rest several star players at St Mary’s. This is likely to damage his side’s chances of claiming maximum points, so we could see Man City record fourth draw in last six away games.
Having just returned from injury, captain Vincent Kompany is unlikely to be risked at St Mary’s with Eliaquim Mangala set to deputise.
Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov and Fabian Delph should all be recalled, but David Silva is out with a hamstring problem and Yaya Toure is doubtful.
Key Factors to Consider
- Man City won last four meetings vs Southampton
- The Citizens will be missing several important players
- The teams are tied in last six games at St Mary’s (W2 D2 L2)
- Saints have six wins in last six eight fixtures at home
- Man City recorded three draws in last five away games (W2)
Southampton have performed really well of late and they will be looking to take advantage of Manchester City’s lack of focus due to their Champions League clash with Real Madrid. This means the two teams will be pretty evenly matched at St Mary’s, so we expect them to cancel each other out.
Best Odds: 12/5