On Sunday, St Mary’s will play host to the clash of the weekend. Not many would have thought that when Southampton were to host the reigning champions at home they would be doing so from 2nd place in the table 2 points ahead of the Citizens. The Saints are to face their biggest challenge of the season yet as they look to confirm to the rest of the league that they are a legitimate threat to the top 4. Manchester City are struggling in their attempts to stay on Chelsea’s tails in the hope of retaining their title. Spirits will be high at the club though, after a massive performance in midweek against Bayern Munich has kept their Champions’ League dreams alive. The two clubs’ recent form is similar with only 1 loss, 1 draw and 4 victories in their last 6 Premier League matches. Southampton’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Monday night was only the 6th time they have conceded in the league this year. Facing up against an in form Sergio Aguero is as stern a test as the Saints could face this season, if they manage to come through Sunday unscathed by the Manchester clubs inevitable onslaught, the rest of League’s Champions League hopefuls will really have to take notice of the season’s surprise package. On the other side of the coin, Manchester City cannot afford to lose any more ground to Mourinho’s team, making this Sunday’s game a potential Premier League classic.
The home side will go into the game hoping Steven Davis has recovered from the knock that kept him out of their last game. The Northern Irishman has proven to be a thorn in Man City’s side with 2 goals against the reigning champions. Other minor doubts heading into the game are Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin and Gallagher. The biggest loss would be Morgan Schneiderlin as his breaking up of play in the midfield will be key to a positive result against the blue half of Manchester
Manchester City will be hopeful of a return to the squad for Edin Dzeko and David Silva. The big Bosnian has 3 goals against Southampton and goal scoring options will be needed to break down the toughest defence in the league so far this year. David Silva’s creation will also be of benefit to breaking down the Saints’ back line. It is apparent though that City will be without left-back Aleksander Kolarov for at least another week
- Manchester City have had the most shots on target so far this season with 76. Meanwhile, Southampton have allowed the least shots on their goal with 26
- Southampton have won 6 of their last 8 home games, only conceding twice in that run. Manchester City though have scored in every away game they’ve played in the league this year
- City have only won 1 of their last 5 visits to St Mary’s
- Edin Dzeko has scored the most goals in this game during the Premier League era with 3
- Southampton have the slight edge in victories over Manchester City throughout the history of the fixture with 27 wins while City have won 25
Southampton: Fraser Forster
Key to the Saints’ unprecedented success so far this season has been their rock solid defensive efforts. Against Manchester City, and their attacking prowess, no man will need to bring his A game more than England international goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The former Celtic man has only let 6 goals into his net and kept 7 clean sheets so far this season, the best stats of any keeper in the league including Chelsea’s Thibault Courtois. This Sunday he will come up against the league’s top goal scorer in the form of Sergio Aguero fresh off the back of a heroic hat-trick against arguably the world’s best keeper Manuel Neuer. The big lad from Hexham is no stranger to big clashes. During his tenure with Celtic, Forster proved himself to be a force during their Champions League campaigns against teams like Barcelona helping his team to historic results. This is going to be Southampton’s equivalent as they could put some breathing space between them and the reigning champions as Forster seeks a return to Europe’s elite competition. Southampton parted with a massive 10 million pound sum this summer to secure the England international and this is exactly the type of match why the money was spent. A strong performance here would also go a long way towards Forster claiming the England number 1 spot over the man charged with keeping Manchester City’s sheets clean.
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero
Quite simply, at the moment Sergio Aguero is Manchester City. The diminutive Argentine is keeping Manchester City’s season from completely falling off the rails. The striker has 12 goals so far this season leading the goal scoring chart ahead of Diego Costa. His contribution to the Citizens is plain to see, he has only failed to score in 1 of City’s wins this season. When Aguero plays, so do Man City. The two league losses suffered by the Manchester side this season have both been on occasions when Aguero has failed to get on the score sheet. Without his goals City have been left wanting, with Yaya Toure not being able to capture his immense goal scoring form of the season just passed. Off the back of one of his finest hours in the sky blue shirt – netting a hat-trick against Bayern Munich and near single handedly keeping the blue of Manchester in the Champions League – it will now be in the Premier League that the City fans look to their hero to put them into 2nd and keeping them in pursuit of Chelsea and retention of their Premier League crown. Facing the strongest defence in the league is when you need your strikers on top form, recent performances would suggest that Aguero is red hot and is just the man to open up that defence to City’s great benefit.
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There’s no other game this weekend I’m looking forward to as much as this one. It is a chance for affirmation to Southampton fans and the club that they could just do what most thought impossible after their summer dealings. A real test for Ronald Koeman and his men, against a City side who may have turned a corner after keeping their European dreams alive against the German champions on Tuesday night. It has all the ingredients for a Premier League classic given that extra sprinkle of importance since the two sides are split by only 2 points in the table. Southampton’s doubters believe they don’t have a squad with enough depth to keep up the form they’ve shown for a full season, and this game comes at the beginning of a run that will see them face both Arsenal away and Man United at home within 8 days of the City game. A run of games like that separates the men from the boys and I can see Koeman’s troops going all out to get as good a start to that run of fixtures as they can against arguably the hardest opponents. City’s class is there however, they are like a machine at times who click into gear when they look lost and dismantle teams. I can see the two sides sharing the spoils in this one in an engrossing affair that will have both supporters and neutrals alike gripped from the off.