Two of the Premier League’s in-form strikers will go head-to-head when Southampton entertain Leicester City.
Jamie Vardy has scored in Leicester’s past five matches and is the division’s leading marksman with seven this term, the England international’s displays earning him a nomination for September’s Premier League player of the month award.
Graziano Pelle leads the way for Southampton with five goals – including the third in a stunning 3-1 win at Chelsea last time out – and returns to action with his club having netted a late winner in Italy’s concluding Euro 2016 qualifier against Norway on Tuesday.
Saints boss Ronald Koeman will be unable to select Shane Long alongside Pelle in attack – the Republic of Ireland’s surprise match-winner against Germany having returned from international duty with an ankle ligament injury that will rule him out for two to four weeks.
There was better news for Dutch midfielder Jody Clasie, who could feature for the first time in a Southampton Premier League game having played 60 minutes in a friendly against Ajax last week.
“I’m very pleased [that Clasie is back], because we like to have everybody available,” Koeman said. “The Shane injury is a disappointment.
“That’s a disappointment, but the rest of the players are happy to be back.
“Little by little we have to make big decisions to leave people out of the 18 on the list for the game. Jordy is back – he’s really on his level and can be important from Saturday onwards.”
Winger Nathan Dyer could bolster the options available to Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri after completing 90 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week, while Riyad Mahrez and Jeffrey Schlupp will be assessed following late returns from international duty.
Dyer would rejoin a squad riding high in fifth place in the Premier League having lost just once in 10 matches across all competitions this season.
Nevertheless, a maiden top-flight clean sheet this term remains elusive.
Ahead of the 2-2 draw against Stoke City, Ranieri pledged to treat his players to a pizza if they kept out the Potters, but the Italian is now upping the ante.
“Don’t get me wrong – I prefer to win and concede a goal if that’s what it takes,” he said.
“If we continue with that then, I will be happy, but I would be really happy if we could do it and our opponents don’t score.
“Maybe the pizza isn’t enough. Maybe I will have to push the boat out and offer them a real slap up meal.
“I am delighted with my players but I just want to push them and sooner or later I know I will have to pay.”
Key Opta Stats
– Both teams secured a 2-0 win over each other last season, with braces for Shane Long and Riyad Mahrez respectively.
– Jamie Vardy has scored in each of his last five Premier League matches. Only Michael Owen (six in 2003), James Beattie (six in 2003) and Daniel Sturridge (8 in 2014) boast a better record this century.
– Leicester have won six points from losing positions this season, more than any other top-flight side.
– Graziano Pelle has missed the target from inside the box 18 times this season – twice as many as the next highest in the category (nine) from Aston Villa’s Rudy Gestede.
– Southampton forward Sadio Mane has two goals and four assists in his last five league appearances.
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