SOUTHAMPTON host Wolves on Sunday. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Southampton vs Wolves | Sunday 14th February 2021, 12:00 | Amazon Prime
Southampton eased – and I do mean eased – past Wolves on Thursday night to book their place in the quarter-finals of this season’s FA Cup.
And with a trip to Championship side Bournemouth awaiting Saints, they now have a fantastic opportunity to justify a strong team selection at Molineux, by securing at least one Wembley appearance with the possibility of winning some silverware becoming an ever more realistic one.
After resting some of his big hitters the pressure is now on Nuno Espirito Santo to back up his decision to prioritise claiming all three points from this trip to St. Mary’s over having a tilt at adding a major trophy to his impressive body of work since arriving in the Midlands.
The Old Gold looked decidedly toothless in the final third with teenage striker Fabio Silva understandably finding Raul Jiminez’s boots very tough to fill, illustrated perfectly by a return of just two goals in 733 minutes of league action albeit with just six starts to his name. The Mexican actually remains top scorer for his club with four goals despite sickeningly fracturing his skull back in November.
After taking six players out of the starting XI from the creditable draw with Leicester in their last league outing, Nuno, possibly for the first time since his arrival, finds himself facing a little fan unrest.
In summarising the cup exit as reported in full here, said “We are not producing enough. We’ve had some good chances, but the final touch was not there, we have to be more clinical, we have problems in the final section of the pitch. Nights like this are disappointing, but we have to bounce back and react. The FA Cup is finished, we have to focus on the Premier League, so we can produce better performances.”
This should mean a return for the likes of Nelson Semedo, Pedro Neto, goalkeeper Rui Patricio along with skipper, organiser, leader Conor Coady – but possibly more crucially wing threat Adama Traore and January signing from Real Sociedad Willian Jose.
The Brazilian striker will also be looking to bounce back following a poor individual performance after starting his third successive game at Leicester but failing to register a shot but with only having 16 touches of the ball that’s hardly a surprise and echoes his manager’s words in that the team is not producing enough.
In his previous two starts, although not managing to score, the 29-year-old had managed five shots with three on target and I am sure he will be fired up to end that scoring drought Sunday at St Marys.
Of those five goal attempts three were with his head, two from corners, one from open play so I am liking the look of the 11/10 on offer with Boylesports for Willan Jose to have Over 0.5 Headed Shots – for the more aggressive amongst you, you can pick up bigger odds of 11/4 with Betfair/Paddy Power that our man has a headed shot on target – but be warned only one of those three efforts made the keeper work.
Since defeating champions Liverpool in their opening fixture of 2021, the Saints three FA Cup wins have punctured five successive league losses whilst their visitors are winless in six road trips (W0, D2, L4) and this clash throws up an interesting combination of stats.
Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side have seen the half-time score in each of their last nine EPL fixtures replicated at the full-time whistle which is a bad omen when taking in to account that Wolves have not lost a first half in any of their last eight league games, leading in two and going in level in the remaining six.
Given these sides current form working out who will come out on top is difficult but the clash of high press, high energy versus grinding teams down is an intriguing one especially with the added dynamic of having only played each other a matter of days ago.
Will Saints take the momentum forward, how will their key players in Danny Ings, James Ward-Prowse, Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Bertrand and Kyle Walker-Peters respond to having to “go again” so soon, or will the fresh Wolves legs make the difference.
One thing I think we can be sure of is the consistent styles of play, so using the stats mentioned above and added to the fact that Southampton’s in game energy exertions so far this season have meant only three clubs (West Brom, Newcastle and Crystal Palace) have shipped more goals after the hour mark than they have I think we have a nice angle in given one of their opponents' key elements of DNA.
Wanderers are well known as a second half team, with this fixture bringing up their century of EPL games since returning to the top flight, they have only managed to make a breakthrough in the opening 45 minutes in 30 of those proceeding 99 – finding the net in 51 of those after the interval.
I think the combination of Southampton’s current form, potential tired legs due to their style of play as well as most of their starting eleven having played on Thursday night, added to Nuno needing to pull a win out of the bag, bringing rested, key players back in to the side as well as their usual approach to keep things tight and wear teams down makes the odds available on a second half goal for Wolves a fantastic line of attack.
For me Wolves to score in the second half at 1/1 is an outstanding price and one I will certainly be taking.
Southampton vs Wolves – Willian Jose Over 0.5 Headed Shots (11/10 Boylesports)
Southampton vs Wolves – Wolves to score in the second half (1/1 Betfair)