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Premier League preview: Southampton v Fulham

Southampton welcome Fulham to St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday in a game likely to produce plenty of goals.

Though entertaining, the Saints have let in an average of three goals a game in their first six matches back in the top flight.

Manager Nigel Adkins’ cavalier approach has made for some entertaining clashes with the better sides in the league, but the leaky defence will have to tighten up if the south coast club are to have any chance of staying in the top flight.

With 18 goals, Southampton have conceded more than any other side in the league and are yet to record a clean sheet, despite bagging 10 at the other end.

Record signing Gaston Ramirez will fly the banner for the club’s hopes of survival and has already integrated well in the middle of the park, scoring his first goal in his second start for the club in a 3-1 loss to Everton last Saturday.

In addition, 17-year-old James Ward-Prowse looks like the next prodigy to come out of Southampton’s famed youth academy, already putting in a number of mature performances in midfield after debuting in a 3-2 loss to Manchester City on the opening weekend of the season.

Southampton’s fixture list has not been kind either, with clashes against last season’s top three in Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and high-flying Everton all coming in the first six games.

Compare that to fellow promoted side West Ham United, who have won three times but not faced a team inside the top 10 yet, and you get the sense upcoming fixtures against some of the weaker sides will better define Southampton’s season.

Traditionally, opponents Fulham have been exceptional at home and woeful away, a trend that has continued this season.

Fulham have scored nine of their 13 goals at Craven Cottage, including a 5-0 win over Swansea and 3-0 result against West Brom.

Striker Mladen Petric has made an immediate impact with three of those in four league games, to some extent off-setting the double departure of key playmakers Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey.

But strike partner and fellow signing Dimitar Berbatov is unlikely to return for at least a couple of weeks, having missed last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester City with a thigh strain.

With Southampton’s suspect defence, particularly down the left side where right-back Nathaniel Clyne is being utilised as a makeshift option, Fulham will find their best avenue to goal.

The Saints were very difficult to beat at home last season in the Championship and scored four against Aston Villa to pick up their only points of the season nearly a fortnight ago, meaning goals will be likely for both sides.

Fri 5 October, 2012
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