Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Southampton vs Tottenham | Saturday 19 December | St Mary's | 17:00
While it isn’t quite the match of the weekend – that honour goes to Manchester City vs Arsenal – the clash between Southampton and Tottenham still looks as though it could provide its fair share of excitement, especially when you factor in the Mauricio Pochettino element. The Current Spurs’ boss was in charge at the south coast club before moving to North London last summer.
The last time the two sides met was in April, where Spurs twice came from behind to earn a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw at toward the end of last season.
To Win Match
Ronald Koeman will desperate to see his side turn around a run of form that has seen three defeats, as well as a disappointing draw against a struggling Aston Villa outfit. They currently find themselves in twelfth spot on the log with five wins, six draws and five losses; though they haven’t managed a win since November 7.
Another concern for the south coasters is the fitness of star centre-forward, Graziano Pelle, who has been sidelined with a minor knee injury. He will likely face a late fitness test ahead of the game. The big Italian has managed six goals in the league this season and remains Koeman’s biggest weapon in front of goal.
Southampton will also be sweating on the fitness of first choice, shotstopper, Maarten Stekelenburg. The Dutch keeper is currently out with a foot injury and looks set to miss Saturday’s all-important clash. He will likely be replaced by Paulo Gazzniga, the young Argentine started in Southampton’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, making a string of fine saves.
Injuries aside, there’s still more than enough quality in this Southampton side to cause Spurs a few problems. Saidio Mane will more than likely look to target the defensively suspect Kyle Walker. The Saints’ winger has been in scintillating form this season, routinely terrorising opposition full-backs up and down the country. His direct approach and quality delivery could well make the difference at St Mary’s this weekend.
The Saints look good in midfield too, with the likes of Dusan Tadic and the Beckham-esque James Ward-Prowse pulling the strings while Victor Wanyama shields the back four from the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
The home side will need to be at their best if they’re going to break down a Tottenham defence that has only conceded 14 goals so far this season. Pelle could well hassle Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in the air, especially if Mane and Ward-Prowse can find the right sort of delivery.
Defensively, the Saints will need to be solid, especially in the face of a side who have managed to plunder 26 goals in just 16 games this season. With Kane hitting his straps after a slow start to the season and the likes of Delle Ali and Ryan Mason also starting to find form, the Saints back four are going to have to be switched on for the full 90.
After a magnificent start to the season, Tottenham have struggle in their last three games - drawing against Chelsea and West Brom and suffering defeat against Newcastle. Pochettino will take heart from the fact that his side hasn’t suffered a defeat in the league in their last six away games in the Premier League.
The North Londoners have to shake their mid-season blues if they want to continue their assault on the top four. Arguably the most worrying stat for Pochettino and his side will be more points than any other team from winning positions this season – losing out on 11 points after they’ve taken the lead in league matches.
Pochettino will be sweating on the fitness of Moussa Dembele and Ryan Mason who will both face late fitness tests ahead of the clash.
Key to Tottenham’s chances this weekend will be the form of Kane and Eriksen. The latter enjoys playing against the Saints having scored three times in his last three games against the south coast outfit. Kane also possesses one of the best goals-per-minute ratios in the league. Of all the players to have scored more than 15 goals in the league, only Daniel Sturridge (a goal every 140 minutes) has a better record than Kane (a goal every 144 minutes).
It’s been a long time since Spurs have looked this settled. They look as though they can mount a real challenge at the top of the table. Pochettino’s men will have to start winning games against supposed lesser sides if they’re going to be real challengers. This game provides them with just such an opportunity.
Verdict: Draw 22/10
Looking at both squads on paper, Spurs should be able to win this game fairly easy. However, with both sides lacking a bit of form coming into this game, it’d take a brave punter to pick a winner. Back the draw at 22/10.
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