Southampton vs Manchester City – Backing an away win in both halves at 15/8 with Coral
Southampton have carved themselves out as one of the best teams in the ‘second league’ of the Premier League in recent years, one of those clubs who really looked to push on towards the European places with a stylish footballing philosophies.
This year has been a little tough, with more of a flirtation with the bottom half of the division and midtable mediocrity. Back to back wins over Crystal Palace and West Brom have put them back on track, but they face a side chasing Champions League football.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are the most potent team in the league on their travels, scoring 33 away from home this season. But they are also very solid, with the fourth best defensive record, conceding just 20. Such consistency should get them over the line at St Mary’s.
Other than the obvious reason for their great attacking ability, Sergio Aguero, City have a lot of firepower at their disposal. They’re perhaps more adept than anyone at changing the pace and managing transitions of play. Although Guardiola has often played Yaya Toure as a sole defensive midfield player, the Ivorian is rarely left exposed because of the positional sense and movement of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, who drop deep to help maintain control of the game before stretching the play by finding either Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling out wide.
But when space is left, it is because City are pressing up high, meaning Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse have different but equally important roles to play on Saturday. Should he return to the team, having missed out against West Brom, Romeu will have to protect the back four. The Spaniard is amongst the best tacklers this season, but will have his work cut out when coming up against both Silva and de Bruyne.
Ward-Prowse will be responsible for punishing the space between that pair and Toure. The quicker Claude Puel’s side can break the first press and get up the pitch, the more space there will be. Ward-Prowse has great energy and close control and if he can get up alongside Dusan Tadic suddenly they have the same advantage City look to get at the other end, two on one with wide players either side. With a high line, City do not want this to happen, but it will take a brave approach from Puel, who started Ward-Prowse in his more familiar wide role last week and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the middle.
This is the kind of open game that suits Guardiola’s City and they should secure the points here.