In-form Southampton face a visit from a Fulham side fresh from two victories to ease pressure on their manager Martin Jol.
Every neutral fan likes to see a team break up the status quo of the big sides in the Premier League and this season it looks to be Southampton as they continue to flirt with the big boys near the top end of the table. Sitting in sixth, mainly due to a trip (and credible draw) at Old Trafford, Pochettino has fully won over the fans after the controversy that surrounded his arrival.
After Fulham’s tricky start that saw only 1 win in 6 games, the 4-1 victory away to Crystal Palace last week was their second consecutive win. Fulham will hope this will kick-start their season after overcoming a troublesome run of form that had seen 2 wins from 14 games dating back to April.
Adam Lallana has always been a standout performer for Southampton and has been key to the Saints’ rise through the leagues since the club overcame financial problems.
Lallana has been Southampton’s most creative player this season with 18 chances created – the 5th best record in the league – and 2 assists to his name. The attacking midfielder is also a good representation of the high defensive pressure utilised by Pochettino having made the highest amount of ground duels (42) for Southampton.
Last weekend’s visit to Old Trafford saw Lallana produce his best performance of the season. The Southampton captain made a total of 5 chances, 38 completed passes alongside a 93% accuracy, and 3 shots – all season bests for Lallana.
A big problem for Fulham this season has been their set up when playing Berbatov, Ruiz and Bent all in the same team, with players not known for their willingness to track back and defend. This is somewhat evident with Pajtim Kasami, who, out of the four attacking players, is only one that consistently contributes defensively, attempting (92) and winning (43) more ground duels than any other Fulham player. Kasami has also made more tackles (17) than any of his team mates, and will certainly have to continue this type of form to prevent Luke Shaw assisting Lallana down the wing on the overlap.
As shown against Crystal Palace on Monday in exquisite fashion, Kasami also offers a threat in attack. The Switzerland player is Fulham’s joint top goal scorer in the league with 2 goals and has had the most shots – both in total (15) and on target (7) – for the London club.
Steven Davis is the only doubt for Southampton after picking up a knock in training this week and will be assessed before the weekend.
Bryan Ruiz is set for a fitness test before tomorrow’s team, while Brede Hangeland is a major doubt for Fulham.
- Southampton have the best defence in the Premier League conceding just 3 goals in 8 games.
- After Pochettino’s appointment in January Southampton failed to beat 6 of last season’s bottom half, but gained 12 points from 9 games against the top half of the table.
- Berbatov’s goal on Monday was his first in the Premier League this season.
- Despite both sides being separated by 7 teams and Southampton having an extra 38 shots, Fulham have scored more goals (9) than their opponents (8).
Southampton’s record against teams in the bottom half of the league under Pochettino has come under fire at times, but it is unlikely to be problem this weekend. Despite the recent improvement by Fulham and Berbatov having one of his better performances against Crystal Palace, Southampton look too good at the moment.
Southampton 2 -1 Fulham