SOUTHAMPTON host Burnley on Saturday in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Southampton v Burnley | Saturday 15th February 2020, 12:30 | BT Sport
Southampton will look to continue their resurgence up the Premier League table when they take on Burnley in stormy conditions at St Mary’s Stadium in Saturday’s early kick-off.
It’s hard for anyone covering Southampton this season not to mention THAT game back in October and even though I can assure you every Saints fan gets fed of up hearing about it, the drubbing was such a clear turning point in what looked another season of regression and despair for all those in SO14.
Since that infamous Friday night, Southampton have won seven times in the league and their form across the last 12 games can only be bettered by Manchester City, and of course Liverpool, which is testament to this set of players and manager Ralph Hassenhuttl who has worked wonders once again to pull the team clear of danger.
The Austrian put talks regarding his contract extension on hold after the Leicester game to ensure the focus of the on and off-field management teams at the club was on securing Premier League safety. The players that came to life midway through 2018/19 when Hassenhuttl first arrived – the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Jan Bednarek – have started to show their true potential again and are supporting the magnificent Danny Ings with more consistent performances.
Ings is the man that everyone is talking about and it’s easy to see why. Seventeen goals in all competitions this season, including two at Fratton Park in September, has propelled the Hampshire born striker to cult hero status and he is clearly reaping the rewards from an injury free pre-season last summer.
The breakaway goal Ings scored in the recent cup defeat to Tottenham was not only a hallmark of his own game this season but epitomised Saints’ recent increased confidence as they turned defence to attack in a matter of seconds.
Another feature of this rejuvenated Southampton team is aggression, and tonnes of it. Pressing from the front and winning the ball back high up the pitch is something Hassenhuttl demands from his troops and you’ll be hard pressed (if you pardon the pun) to find team tackle numbers as high as Saints recorded in that Spurs cup replay elsewhere, a whopping 32 were successful and followed on from 18, 25 and 22 landed in the three games prior to that.
Therefore, the 11/10 on Saints to land 17+ tackles with SkyBet is a bet I’m very eager to back as the odds don’t seem to match the stats with Saints landing this line in 6 of their last 7 league outings. To add to this, Southampton’s tackle average at home is 20 per game, the highest in the Premier League and with the game set to be played on such a wet pitch, the temptation to slide in will be hard to resist.
Opponents Burnley travel south in a much healthier state themselves having picked up seven points from a possible nine. Not many punters would have backed them to overcome Manchester United considering how bad their record was at Old Trafford and even less would have been confident in them beating Leicester but it just goes to prove that you write Shaun Dyche’s men off at your peril.
Dyche will be hoping that the winter break has not halted that positive momentum, with this game representing a decent marker of whether or not a top-10 finish is realistic come mid-May. The Lancashire club are unbeaten in their last six against Southampton who have so often struggled to deal with the direct nature of Burnley’s play. The 3-0 reverse typified this on a day that was similarly as windy as this coming Saturday is set to be which I think plays in to Burnley’s hands by becoming a bit of a leveller.
There’s no doubting Southampton’s improvement but a fair percentage of the seven goals conceded against Liverpool and Tottenham were down to lapses in concentration and I think Saints will concede again. A particular weakness is at right-back with Cedric moving to Arsenal on loan, stand-in Ward-Prowse doubtful through injury and loan signing Kyle Walker-Peters and youngster Yann Valery lacking game time.
Valery has been back training with the first team for a few weeks and featured in the under 23’s most recent game so will likely get the nod. With so much of Burnley’s play coming down the left flank through Charlie Taylor and Dwight McNeil, the Frenchman could suffer again as he did in that 3-0 mauling.
Burnley targeted Valery at back-post crosses and they will know that whoever stands in for Saints in that position will be rusty.
All these factors point me towards both teams to score which can be found at 10/11 with Bet365. It’s landed in nine out of 12 league games at St Mary’s this season proving plenty of value for season ticket holders!
I’ll be keeping an eye on the team news. If Valery starts, the 8/1 on him to be booked with Bet365 will shorten. With 42% of Burnley’s play coming down the left side, the man lacking match sharpness looks far too big at that price to pick up a card.