Premier League Preview – Southampton vs. Manchester City

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  • Southampton are on a run of three consecutive defeats, their worst run under Mauricio Pochettino
  • City are the PL’s top scorer with 40 goals, however only 11 of those have come away
  • Saints have the second best defense in the PL… despite letting in 8 goals in last three games

For most of the early knockings this season, Southampton have been the surprise package and have taken the Premier League by storm.

But three defeats on the spin has sent them back down the table and an injury-crisis is the last thing Mauricio Pochettino needs as Manchester City (watch live on NBCSN, Saturday 10am ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) roll into town.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are enjoying their best run of form since he took over and have won three straight games in the league to put them into the top four after a shaky spell, especially away from the Etihad Stadium, as they’ve lost four times already this season.

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For Saturday’s game Saints are without eight first-team regulars as goalkeepers Artur Boruc and Kelvin Davis are missing, right back Nathaniel Clyne and central defender Jose Fonte are injured, midfielder Victor Wanyama has broken a bone in his leg, Morgan Schneiderlin is out plus Guly Do Prado is missing and Gaston Ramirez could be sidlined by illness.

Pochettino could have as many as seven teenagers in his squad as he prepares to take on City’s lethal attacking unit. Sergio Aguero has been on fire this season, scoring 16 times in his last 14 games and has formed a superb partnership with Alvaro Negredo up front.

It will be a big ask for Southampton’s makeshift squad to win anything more than pride on Saturday afternoon at St. Mary’s.

Then again, Pochettino’s first win in charge of the Saints came at home vs. City in a 3-1 win last February.

Can they repeat that against all the odds?

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pochettino on Southampton’s injury-crisis: “Of course, injuries always change your plans and your outlook. They will have a negative impact on you, but we need to keep on working and believing in the way we have done. I enjoy everything in football. Obviously, I’d prefer to enjoy the positive moments because no-one wants to go through negative times, but I need to be fully-focused and to relish these moments when they come around.”

source: AP
Red-hot striker Aguero is likely to be the difference between the two sides on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini on facing the Saints: “Pochettino is a great manager and someone who I know very well. I’m sure he is going to play with a strong team. It’s not good for any team to lose and I don’t know what happened them recently, they have a young team and a young manager. But they have a lot of good players; it’s a very good side.”

Prediction

The Saints will have to be at their best to pull this one off and without their two central midfielder, first choice goalkeeper, right back and center back, their lack of squad depth is going to be horribly exposed. I don’t think they can handle Aguero, Yaya Toure and the rest oc City’s attacking talents on Saturday and it could be a fourth loss on the spin for the Saints. Pellegrini’s men are on a roll and I don’t expect that to stop at St. Mary’s. Away win.

VIDEO: American teen Wright scores first 2.Bundesliga goal

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For all the talk about Schalke’s 18-year-old American wunderkind, Weston McKennie, it’s easy to forget that three young Yanks signed for the Bundesliga side.

One of them, Haji Wright, scored four goals in a preseason match before being loaned out to Sandhausen in 2.Bundesliga.

Ex-New York Cosmos striker Wright, 19, came off the bench for Sandhausen in its league opener Saturday, and didn’t wilt when given a clear scoring chance alone in the 18.

[ MORE: Bundesliga preview with Howedes, Nastasic ]

Wright has scored 31 goals at the U.S. youth national team level, and Bruce Arena will be quite familiar with him given a four-year stint with the LA Galaxy Academy.

Fellow American striker Andrew Wooten is on the books at Sandhausen, but the veteran was not in the 18.

Here’s video, found by American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta:

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

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Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.