Our football scribe previews the EPL clash between Southampton and Everton.
Southampton’s surprise point against Liverpool will have given them some self-belief after two consecutive Premier League defeats. Claude Puel’s side showed vigorous endeavor last Saturday and will be using that as a launching pad to success against Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals.
Everton’s season has been an odd one. On the verge of making a concerted push towards the top four on several occasions, they have consistently incurred blips as their squad has been stretched to its breaking point. And with Romelu Lukaku’s future in such a precarious position, Ronald Koeman is going to need to draw on his wealth of experience to get some momentum back.
English Premier League | Sunday 27 November | st Mary's Stadium | 18:30
To Win (90 mins)
Southampton 21/20 | Draw 24/10 | Everton 26/10
Puel’s side have utilized this loose 4-3-3 formation to great effect. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu are your traditional midfield sitters, while Steven Davis is allowed to join the front three more liberally. Sofiane Boufal was utilized to curtail Liverpool’s tremendous attacking instincts last weekend.
I think that Puel will opt to start Long this time around, as Everton have shown a vulnerability to swift counterattacking sides this entire season. That holding midfield area is a weak point that Puel’s side must attack. Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Djik, tremendous thus far this season, will need to be careful about the very specific threat that Lukaku poses. The big Belgian's preternatural combination of speed and strength could unsettle any defence.
Ryan Bertand and Cedric Soares are going to have far different afternoons to last week. They hardly entered Liverpool’s half in their dogged defensive display. They will need to push forward a bit more as Baines and Coleman threaten their flanks.
Charlie Austin has been in good goal scoring form and will fancy his chance against a fairly unreliable defensive system. I expect Nathan Redmond to have a big game following a few quiet recent displays.
The return of Leighton Baines last weekend should start to pay dividends as he slowly comes back to full match fitness. His dynamism down the left hand side and ability to link with the likes of Bolasie has been sorely missed. Lukaku has drawn sharp rebuke from certain segments of the Everton fan base with talk of dissatisfaction at the club, saying it’s not one of the bigger sides in the league.
While there is truth to the Belgian’s utterances, perhaps it would be wiser to remain silent with such a fearsomely partisan home support. You could feel the fans getting on the side’s case against lowly Swansea and Koeman may welcome this away trip.
Gareth Barry is available again following suspension, but Koeman may opt to continue with Idrissa Gueye and James McCarthy in the holding roles. Southampton have speed in the likes of Redmond and Long on the break, which may see Koeman opt for the more athletic Gueye over Barry.
Yannick Bolasie has been their most consistent player and will look to drive the team forward. Koeman simply needs more consistency from Ross Barkley. He is fast turning into the most frustrating player in the leg, fluttering between brilliance and anonymity too often.
Verdict: Southampton Win (21/20)
I’m feeling the very tangible onset of discontent in this Everton side. They are still sitting fairly cozily in the league table, but the spectre of Lukaku’s potential January departure could weigh heavy on the club. I expect Southampton to draw from their resilient performance last week and hurt Everton on the counterattack.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets