SOUTHAMPTON welcome Manchester City to St Mary's for Sunday night's BBC1 showdown. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Southampton vs Manchester City | Sunday 5th July 2020, 19:00 | BBC1
Manchester City make the long trip south fresh from dismantling the newly-crowned champions Liverpool on Thursday night.
City’s win put down a marker for next season’s title race which already looks set to be the most eagerly anticipated for years to come. The free-flowing football from the Citizens and the way they tore apart a Liverpool backline so dominant this campaign was a joy to behold, even if their opponents weren’t particularly fresh from any potential celebrations during the week.
With a lot of pent up frustration taken out on the reds, you wonder what will come next from a team now looking towards European glory in August, but it’s near impossible to back against them here given their attacking strength.
One man that has benefitted most from the recent break in play and perhaps Liverpool’s massive lead given his extra game time is Phil Foden. The Stockport born youngster has earned so many plaudits from his game time in the first eleven and rightly so, providing such energy and creative threat in the final third.
Foden will be a mainstay in this team for years to come and already looks to have filled the departing David Silva’s shoes. If he can have the same success at the Etihad that the Spaniard did, then he’ll become a City icon. I was looking to get the midfield man on side here but the value following his Thursday heroics is unsurprisingly few and far between, so I’ll turn my attention elsewhere.
The Blues’ face a Southampton team who successfully reached 40 points in their convincing win at Watford, an eighth success on the road this season which is remarkable. The fact the team has reached 40 points is another extraordinary achievement in itself given the rock bottom point they had hit during the Autumn – at one stage sitting bottom of the table.
Those accomplishments are testament to the new boardroom personnel who stuck with Ralph Hassenhuttl when it looked the only possible move to part ways with the Austrian. Chief Executive Martin Semmens never doubted the project that Hassenhuttl is in the midst of and that loyalty has been rewarded.
Whilst the club’s off-field situation looks worrying from a financial perspective – the owners taking out loans and nowhere to be seen – there finally looks to be some on-the-pitch stability following years of discontent and upheaval.
Even if Pierre Hojbjerg leaves for Tottenham in the summer, there’s a core of players in this team which will be the envy of most teams in the bottom half of the Premier League – the likes of Danny Ings, James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong having great seasons and only look to be getting better.
Determined Dane in-focus
It’s Hojbjerg I want to focus on for my only bet of this game however. The Dane had the captaincy removed from him a few weeks ago due to the ongoing transfer speculation and he’s began the restart in a determined manner. Whether that’s down to annoyance that his midfield teammate James Ward-Prowse being given the armband or because he’s trying to impress his potential suitors is hard to assess, but he has been breaking up play terrifically.
Hojbjerg to have 2+ tackles, teamed with Manchester City to win and Over 1.5 Goals with Ladbrokes’ Bet Builder feature is priced at evens, and it’s a two point play from me. The midfielder has registered two or more tackles in his last five appearances – landing six and five in his last two matches.
Alongside the more forward-thinking Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg is primarily responsible for protecting the back four and although his passing range and technical ability is not on the level of JWP, he is great at intercepting opposition attacks. In the reverse league defeat at Manchester City, the Danish international recorded three successful tackles, to add to the first part of the bet.
Hojbjerg used to play under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich and always seems to impress against his former boss, who has always been complimentary of the skills of the 24 year-old.
City’s record against Southampton (like against most teams admittedly) is impressive – winning seven head-to-heads in succession and six of them seeing Over 1.5 Goals land. Although Southampton have improved as a collective in the past few months, there’s still plenty of evidence of the defensive errors which have cost the team over and over again at home, as we saw in the Arsenal fixture about 10 days ago.
I’ve covered the abysmal Saints home form previously but the stark numbers are worth repeating – 19 wins in the last 73 down Britannia Road. Wins against the traditional top six are also a rarity since Ronald Koeman’s departure so I can only see this match going one way now that Saints are safe.
Manchester City’s strength in depth in forward areas should see them through this match and with 30 of their 32 matches this season seeing twp or more strikes hit the back of the net, the goals element seems a safe part to add into the mix. Earlier this season, Southampton visited the Etihad Stadium twice in four days in the wake of the 9-0 Leicester defeat, losing 2-1 and 3-1.
Southampton vs Manchester City – Pierre Hojbjerg 2+ Tackles, Manchester City to Win and Over 1.5 Goals (1/1 Ladbrokes)