Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Southampton

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  • Stoke sit two points above Saints
  • Potters unbeaten in four (W3, D1)
  • Saints’ captain Fonte suspended

Stoke City look to extend their slim lead over Southampton when they host Saints at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Potters currently sit two points and one place above Southampton on the table.

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Mark Hughes‘ Stoke side are unbeaten in four Premier League matches, climbing up to eighth on the table. They have done so without captain Ryan Shawcross, who has returned to training and could be fit to play this weekend after missing eight matches with a back injury. With their center-back out, goalkeeper Jack Butland has stepped up and provided a series of excellent displays, currently leading the Premier League with 98 saves.

[ MORE: Newcastle United appoint Rafa Benitez as new manager ]

Southampton’s biggest problem this season has been consistency, as Saints have struggled to find results week-in and week-out. After going eight matches without a win they rattled off a six-match unbeaten run, but have now stumbled again and are currently winless in three. One of the reasons for this inconsistency has been the form of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane, two players who have been wildly disappointing for Saints this season. Pelle has not scored since November and Mane since October, stretches far too long for players of their quality.

In team news, captain and center-back Jose Fonte is suspended after being sent off against Sunderland last weekend, while striker Charlie Austin will miss another match with a hamstring injury.

What they’re saying

Stoke boss Mark Hughes: “It’s likely to be the biggest crowd ever for a league game at the Britannia, so it shows that there’s a real interest in what we’re doing. There’s a real goodwill factor around everything connected with Stoke City at the moment, and we’ll use that hopefully to drive us for a great conclusion to the season.”

Saints’ manager Ronald Koeman: “I’m concerned about scoring. We need the best out of our quality players up front and we have those qualities, but it’s time to show. That makes a difference and will be very important to have a good roll until the end of the season.”

Prediction

These two sides always seem to play out extremely close matches, and you can expect the same on Saturday. Stoke are in better form and will feed off the energy at a packed Britannia, so I’m siding with the Potters. Stoke City 1-0 Southampton.