The annual September international break may be interpreted by Premier League sides in 2 ways. Either as an excellent opportunity to regroup after a less than convincing start to the season, or an unavoidable nuisance sure to disrupt the form mustered over the opening encounters of the new campaign. Having faltered in their first few fixtures, both sides finally found that elusive first win with victories over Norwich and Stoke respectively, and managers Tony Pulis and Ronald Koeman will not have been the only managers across the continent cursing the timing of the international fixture list. The first win provides an injection of momentum into a squad; momentum lost when the players are sent to opposite sides of the globe to compete on the international scene. With those away with their countries having now returned to their clubs, Pulis and Koeman now have only a matter of days to prepare their players for the rigorous demands of a Premier League fixture. Although early in the season and the summer break still fresh in our minds, international travel and competitive fixtures may have taken their toll on the clubs star performers, and it remains to see who will be available for Saturday’s fixture.
The Baggies have no new injury concerns off the back of the international break, and may see the return of centre half, James Chester, after a niggling hamstring problem. Long term absentee, Ben Foster, is still a few weeks away from the first team.
Like their hosts, the Saints expect to welcome back some key players to the squad, with England full back Ryan Bertrand pushing for a spot in Ronald Koeman’s side after a knee injury. Holding midfielder and summer signing, Jordie Clasie, may also be back in the side after missing the home defeat of Norwich. Florian Gardos is unlikely to see action again this season, and joins Fraser Forster in the stands for the foreseeable future.
Head To Head
Since their first meeting over 100 years ago, the sides have faced each other on no less than 72 occasions, with the visitors edging the stats with 26 wins to their name in comparison to the hosts’ 23. In 2012 both teams were to be found in the top flight once more, and in the 6 fixtures since this date, West Brom lead with 3 wins to Southampton’s 2 with a solitary draw at St Mary’s at the beginning of last season.
West Brom: Salomon Rondon
West Brom splashed the cash to secure the free scoring Venezuelan in a £12 million summer swoop, smashing the clubs transfer record in the process. Rondon has already proven his ability to pick up points for the West Midlanders, and his winner in the victory at Stoke may prove to be the catalyst for a successful season at the Hawthorns. Since the expiration of Romelu Lukaku’s loan several years ago, the Baggies have failed to find a prolific goal scorer. Rondon possesses many of the characteristics Lukaku exhibits in his game, and if the powerful forward is supported from behind, goals will come easily to this West Brom side with Rondon leading the line.
Southampton: Dusan Tadic
The Serbian winger’s season finally began with his side’s comfortable win over Norwich, and Tadic was the best player of the park in a game where he found the net on two occasions. A successful step up from the Eredivisie last season is set to be followed up by another convincing campaign this time out, and do not be surprised if Tadic eventually joins the long list of players Southampton have made a tidy profit from. The player has the ability to make things happen, and will punish those that give him the space to exercise his ability on the ball. Pulis will be well aware of the threat posed by the Serb, and will look to mark the player out of the game, thus cutting the supply to the men up front. However with Tadic in a rich vein of form, this may prove to be a difficult feat to achieve.
Southampton finally showed signs of the team that has so greatly impressed over the past few years with their emphatic win over Norwich, and this weekend will prove whether Ronald Koeman’s side have rediscovered their form. A tenacious and hard fought win at fancied Stoke will have restored faith from the stands for the hosts, who will look to secure their first win on home soil this weekend. Both teams will be sure to fancy their chances in this difficult to predict encounter, and will the Baggies boasting home advantage, a draw is surely on the cards.
West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Southampton