Southampton will play their first home game of the season when they take on Alan Irvine and West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. After a spirited performance against Liverpool at Anfield that ended on a losing note somewhat undeservedly, the Saints will be looking to get their first points on board with a good performance and a positive result against the Baggies. Defender Nathaniel Clyne found the net in the 56th minute for Southampton cancelling out Sterling’s opener, who missed the chance to double his tally when Schneiderlin’s strike found the bar in the 88th minute and Shane Long’s header on the rebound went wide. Nonetheless, Ronald Koeman and the Saints camp after a serious overhaul in the summer, are upbeat about the first home game of their season and the new signings will be aiming to win over the acclaim of the undying home support.
West Bromwich Albion also missed out on a chance to register an opening day victory over Sunderland after conceding a late equalizer with the score ending 2-2 after the final whistle. Saidy Berahino scored both the goals for the midlands club at the Hawthorns but Larsson netted the equalizer late in the game spoiling the celebrations, denying a debut victory for new manager Alan Irvine. The manager sounded positive after the game and rightly so as he acknowledged the buoyant mood around the place. He said,
“The lads have been great this season and we’re working hard for each other. It’s a squad game more than ever now and you’ve got to support everybody around the place, whether you’re playing or not. We’ve got a good vibe around the place and the lads are doing well together, if we can keep that going we will have a good chance this season.”
A Saints debut for Romanian centre-back Florin Gardos, who joined from Steaua Bucuresti last week, is still a fortnight away, while Jay Rodriguez is likely to be sidelined until at least Christmas. With his options limited, Koeman could name the same XI that he did against Liverpool, although £12m striker Shane Long could be handed a start against the team that sold him to Hull City six months ago.
Both Stephane Sessegnon and club-record signing Brown Ideye are nearing full fitness and will be pushing to displace Victor Anichebe as the leader of the Albion front line. Irvine will be keen to slot free agent signing Joleon Lescott into his defence, but the former England international, along with Gareth McAuley, is an injury doubt and therefore Craig Dawson may be handed the start. Costa Rica’s World Cup star Cristian Gamboa has just joined the West Midlands club and may not feature, while James Morrison will also be absent from what should be an unchanged midfield.
- These two teams have met 42 times and the Saints have won this fixture 14 times. While 15 games have ended in a draw and 13 matches have ended in favor of West Bromwich Albion.
- Southampton won both of their fixtures against Albion last season by a 1-0 scoreline.
- The 155 shots by opponents at St. Mary’s in 2013-14 were the fewest attempted against any home side.
- Of the seven goals scored between the sides over the last two Premier League seasons, none of the players who scored are currently playing for the same club.
Southampton: Forster; Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Betrand; Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Davis; Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Long
West Brom: Foster; Wisdom, Dawson, Olsson, Pocognoli; Dorrans, Gardner, Mulumbu, Brunt; Sessegnon, Berahino
James Ward-Prowse – Southampton
In many ways one would feel, this could be his season to shine. Ward Prowse, one of the highly rated English talents at this moment in time will certainly play a major role in Southampton’s final league position come May. Having overseen several big name exits in the likes of Shaw, Lallana and Lambert, Ward Prowse should be feeling the weight of responsibility creeping above his shoulders and has already shown glimpses of what he can do last season and even in the last game against Liverpool, he looked comfortable alongside Morgan Schneiderlin, on and off the ball and showcased his abilities to create chances out of dead ball scenarios.
The 19-year old has made 34 appearances in the last season with 16 starts and 18 from the bench and has averaged 1.03 key passes a game making a total of 39 key passes throughout the course of season. He boasts a passing success rate of 87% and has managed to put in 159 crosses out of which 55 did find a teammate and has evolved into a genuine set-piece threat for the south coast outfit. On Saturday, he could be in for a midfield tussle against a more experienced Brunt and much of the game’s outcome could be decided by who comes out on top of this intriguing midfield battle.
Saidy Berahino – West Bromwich Albion
Berahino could not have asked for a better start to the season on a personal level as he managed to score a brace in his first game against Sunderland. He’s just 3 goals shy of last season’s personal tally and will be hoping to add to that come Saturday when the baggies take on Southampton at St.Mary’s stadium. Known for his speed and quick change of pace, he made his mark by scoring a crucial winner at Old Trafford last season making it a memorable day for the fans and himself. Marred by inconsistency in his performances last season and a few intermittent injuries never really got him going but now he has started the new season afresh, got himself on the score-sheet not once but twice and will certainly be buzzing for the next game. His movement will be tough to deal with and if he is given the yard to thrive, I can’t see why he won’t find the back of the net against an unsettled Saints back four.
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Southampton are slight favorites ahead of the game. They proved they can still push for a place in the top 7-8 even after losing several key players during the summer after an encouraging performance against Liverpool. West Bromwich Albion will also be looking to get their first win of the season away from home after a 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns, which does add more spice to the game. Sure to be a close encounter, I’m going for a narrow home win.