WILL DYER (@w2dyer) takes a look at Southampton's chance for EFL Cup final revenge against Manchester United. Will the Red Devils' focus on the Europa League be the deciding factor?
Southampton v Manchester United | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
United make the trip to the south coast to face Southampton in their penultimate Premier League game of the season. This is their third consecutive away game, having lost the last two to Arsenal and Tottenham but there is no hiding from the fact that the Europa League is Jose Mourinho’s focus.
Liverpool’s victory over West Ham on Sunday made it impossible for the Red Devils to qualify for the Champions League via the usual route so attentions are now turned firmly towards the Europa League final on the 24th May.
As for Saints, this league season has been somewhat of a washout. The 16-point gap between them and Everton in seventh place illustrates that perfectly. This fixture though, is a repeat of the EFL Cup final and Claude Puel’s men deserve some credit for that cup run which concluded with a spirited performance, albeit in a 3-2 defeat at Wembley.
Since that defeat, Saints have been inconsistent, recording W4-D3-L4 but in particular, their form has dipped over the last six games; winning just one and scoring in only two matches. However, it should be noted that those half dozen games included a very tough run of fixtures, facing Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Saints lost three of those four games but at this point of the season, it’s not surprising considering what was at stake for their top six opposition, compared to the inevitable mid-table finish that lies ahead of them. In Man United, they have a slightly easier prospect.
Eyes on the Prize
We should expect another rotation of players from Mourinho. Risking too many of his consistent performers would be foolish at this point so expect to see Axel Tuanzebe, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Anthony Martial to take to the pitch again.
I think the bookmakers have priced this game up correctly. United are the marginal outsiders at 15/8 and that does seem a big price for them to win a league game against a side outside of the top seven but their focus on the date with Ajax in Stockholm it’s a risky wager.
Instead, I’m opting for the draw here at 12/5 with PaddyPower. The visitors have drawn more Premier League games than anyone else this season, 14 out of 36, which is 39% of their games, or in betting terms 6/4.
Saints showed in the cup final that they can give United a real game and that was before they lost Zlatan Ibrahimović to injury. Now with Charlie Austin back from injury, back on home turf and the difference in mind-sets of the clubs towards this game, I have them on a very level pegging.
Southampton v Manchester United – Draw (12/5 PaddyPower)