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.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.