It’s fair to suggest that as Ronald Koeman presided over an ever-growing exodus from St. Mary’s that the newspaper hacks were already sharpening their pencils and the bookies shortening the odds on an early managerial departure.
However this ex son of Barcelona is made of sterner stuff and with only five games gone, Koeman has transformed the mood down on the south coast.
So much so that his Southampton side are already outpassing, outscoring and out-tackling the Mauricio Pochettino vintage of last season. Some feat when by popular opinion that 2013/14 squad were apparently the best side seen in those parts since the days of Le Tissier.
Two of the new signings, Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic, have been key to their team’s rise up to a lofty second in the table. Both will be instrumental again in this one.
By contrast, ex-Soton manager Harry Redknapp, who is likely to again be met with a chorus of boos when he emerges from the tunnel, has struggled to get his expensively-assembled group going.
Rio Ferdinand’s acquisition has yet to pay dividends, and his poor form is a key reason why the Hoops have already shipped 11 goals. Being compared to Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore by his manager is frankly laughable at this juncture.
Joey Barton’s omission from the midfield through injury will hurt QPR badly. To have any chance whatsoever in this one, Redknapp’s charges are going to have to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and produce a performance akin to something they produced on their last visit to St. Mary’s.
Ronald Koeman’s side remain without half a dozen players for the visit of QPR. James Ward Prowse and Maya Yoshida have an outside chance of making the game if selected, but Koeman still has no idea when he can call on the services of Toby Alderweireld, Jay Rodriguez, Lloyd Isgrove and Sam Gallagher.
With five players definitely out, QPR fare only marginally better. Missing for the visitors are instrumental midfielder Joey Barton, Jordan Mutch, Adel Taraabt, Alejandro Faurlin and Sandro Ranieri.
Southampton: Forster, Bertrand, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Schneiderlin, Cork, Wanyama, Tadic, Long, Pelle.
QPR: Green, Traore, Ferdinand, Caulker, Isla, Fer, Henry, Phillips, Kranjcar, Vargas, Austin.
Southampton haven’t beaten QPR at home since a 2-0 win in November 1995.
There have only been six goalless draws between the sides since their first meeting in 1899.
QPR’s win at St. Mary’s in 2013 was only their 3rd in 28 games that season.
Only four players from Southampton and one from QPR that contested the 2013 match are likely to be involved this time around.
Previous Head to Heads
02/03/13 Southampton 1-2 QPR
17/11/12 QPR 1-3 Southampton
14/03/09 Southampton 0-0 QPR
14/09/08 QPR 4-1 Southampton
09/02/08 Southamton 2-3 QPR
01/09/07 QPR 0-3 Southampton
Southampton: Graziano Pelle
Although Southampton have looked the real deal across the pitch already this season, one player has, metaphorically and literally speaking, been head and shoulders above everyone else.
Signed from Feyenoord for £9 million in the summer transfer window, 29-year-old Graziano Pelle’s form for the Saints has been so good that it has piqued the interest of Italian national team manager Antonio Conte.
Four goals in five games is a strike rate that any Premier League front man would be proud of, and Pelle is certainly grapsing his chance at glory in England’s top division.
QPR: Steven Caulker
Charged with keeping Pelle’s influence to a minimum will be rock-solid centre back Steven Caulker.
Whilst Rio Ferdinand has hardly justified his selection with a string of errors, Caulker remains concentrated, focused and able. 11 goals conceded as a squad doesn’t speak of defensive excellence and Caulker will have his work cut out undoubtedly.
However, his doggedness and attention to the job in hand, should see Pelle’s influence at least reduced in this game.
Graziano Pelle has scored three goals already this season since joining in the summer.
Tailorbet are offering odds of 2.10 for him to score anytime against QPR here http://goo.gl/VlNG5O.
Both sides have started the season with vastly differing fortunes. Harry Redknapp’s star-studded XI are in grave danger of becoming embroiled in an early season scrap for survival if they lose this one. Star-studded they may be, but they are playing like a collection of individuals rather than a team.
Totally the opposite to their hosts who are flying high just behind league-leaders Chelsea. With home advantage to boot, Southampton will ease to victory in this one.