Southampton vs. Tottenham: A Preview and Probable Lineups
The Saints, who now are back in the relegation zone standing on four points and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, will hope to get at least an unlikely point and rebound from last week's dreadful performance that resulted in a 4-1 defeat to West Ham.
Spurs will also be looking to correct a short-term run of bad form. Tottenham suffered a 4-2 defeat to Chelsea in their last Premier League game and only managed a 1-1 draw against Maribor of Slovenia in Europa League play on Thursday. Three points would be helpful in Tottenham's pursuit of a top-four position.
One could expect an avalanche of goals in this fixture. Southampton have been dubbed "Europe's Most Exciting Team" by some based on the number of goals scored in their matches. Not necessarily by the Saints themselves, who have tallied a respectable 13 in eight matches, but for the 24 they have also conceded.
An average Southampton match features 4.62 goals per match, one of the highest rates in the major European leagues. Tottenham have scored 15 goals and conceded 12 in their eight Premier League matches, resulting in 3.37 goals per match.
Here's a look at the possible lineups.
Having started seven of Tottenham's eight Premier League games so far this season, Brad Friedel seems to be the likely choice in goal for Sunday's match.
Friedel was rested in favor of Hugo Lloris for Thursday's draw to Maribor. Friedel didn't even make the trip to Slovenia, as Carlo Cudicini served as Lloris' backup.
With Friedel rested, there is no reason why the American veteran won't be between the sticks at St Mary's, with Lloris returning to the bench.
Three different keepers, Kelvin Davis, Paulo Gazzaniga and Artur Boruc, have played in goal for Southampton already.
Paulo Gazzaniga has performed the best out of the three, only conceding five goals in three Premier League matches. Gazzaniga has also been the keeper of record for all four of Saints' points so far this season, playing in goal for the win against Aston Villa and the draw against Fulham.
However, Gazzaniga didn't even make the squad in Southampton's last match against West Ham. Boruc was named the starter with Kelvin Davis on the bench as backup
Expect Boruc to get another shot at starting, but don't be surprised if Gazzaniga replaces Davis on the bench.
With Benoit Assou-Ekotto still out with a knee injury, expect Tottenham to play the same back four as they did against Chelsea. William Gallas, who has started every Premier League match this season, will likely man the center with Steven Caulker.
The outside backs will likely be Kyle Walker, who has also played every Premier League match for Tottenham, along with Jan Vertonghen, who moved to left back after Assou-Ekotto's injury.
Defenders on the bench will likely be Michael Dawson and Kyle Naughton.
The jigsaw puzzle that has been the Southampton backline doesn't seem to have many solutions at the moment.
With both Danny Fox and Frazer Richardson out with injuries, the Saints' back four, which has already conceded a Premier League worst 24 goals, will probably be patchwork once again this weekend.
The embattled duo of Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld will likely get the starting nods at center back once again, despite the duo's tendency to give away silly penalties and own goals. Maya Yoshida, who was brought in to provide another option in the center, will likely start out wide once again, something he hasn't seemed too comfortable doing so far.
The lone bright spot in the Southampton rear guard has been Nathaniel Clyne. Clyne has looked pacy on the wing and has done a fairly good job on defense, and will likely start on the outside with Yoshida.
There isn't much to choose from on the bench. Ben Reeves and Daniel Seaborne were named as reserves for the West Ham match, but the pair only have one league appearance and five total appearances between them this season. Danny Butterfield and Luke Shaw have only made one cup appearance each, and youngster Jack Stephens has yet to see action.
Expect to see Reeves and Seaborne on the bench once again, unless promising youngster Luke Shaw beats one of them out to provide a bit more of an attacking threat on the wing.
The rich will get richer as Gareth Bale will rejoin a loaded midfield after a week of personal leave for the birth of his son.
Bale is relishing his return to St. Mary's Stadium, as Bale played 40 matches for Southampton in 2006-07. Bale's parents, along with a group of 13 family members including his sister, aunts and uncles, will make the trip from Wales for the match, according to the Southern Daily Echo.
The other wing position will likely be filled by Aaron Lennon, who has played every Premier League match so far for Tottenham.
The center midfield positions aren't quite as easy to predict, as Spurs have many options. Gylfi Sigurdsson has played in all eight Premier League matches and will probably get one of the two starting spots. If Andre Villas-Boas elects to take a slightly more defensive stance on the road, Sandro would be the odds-on choice to fill the final midfield spot. If Villas-Boas elects to go more offensive, look for Tom Huddlestone to get the nod.
We haven't even mentioned Clint Dempsey at this point, who is a midfielder by trade, or Jake Livermore. Expect Livermore to be on the bench to start along with Huddlestone or Sandro.
At home, Nigel Adkins has taken a more aggressive approach, playing a 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-3 instead of the 4-5-1 that has popped up on the road.
Playing a 4-3-3 against a team like Tottenham is doubtful, so I expect Adkins will play more of a traditional 4-4-2. Adam Lallana has been the bright spot for the Southampton midfield, and should once again play on the left wing. Lallana scored his first Premier League goal last week against West Ham and has a team-leading four assists.
Jason Puncheon has done well with his work rate and pace, although his stats don't reflect it. Puncheon only has one assist, which was on an Aston Villa own goal on a shot that was deflected in, but Puncheon is always noticeable.
The center of the midfield will likely have Morgan Schneiderlin, who has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League. Schneiderlin leads the Premier League in tackles per game with 5.1 and is second in interceptions per game with 3.9 according to WhoScored.com.
With Tottenham likely to have the majority of the possession, Adkins would be wise to employ the younger legs of James Ward-Prowse to start and let him apply pressure to the Tottenham midfield.
Starting Ward-Prowse would allow Steven Davis to come off the bench around the 60th minute and use his energy for the last 30 minutes. The ideal result would be Davis making an instant impact like he did against Manchester City, scoring within three minutes of his debut. Richard Chaplow will likely receive a spot on the bench again, although that may change if Guly Do Prado is used in a backup midfield role.
With Moussa Dembele still on the mend from a hip and thigh injury, and Emmanuel Adebayor a bit in Andre Villas-Boas' doghouse, the striking duo for Tottenham is pretty apparent.
Jermain Defoe has started every single match for Tottenham in the Premier League this season, and has done well with five goals in eight matches. The English international should be partnered by an American international, Clint Dempsey.
Dempsey, who can also play in the midfield, has played in each of Tottenham's Premier League matches since joining the squad on deadline day. Dempsey hasn't quite gotten on track score sheet wise, scoring only one goal, but has looked lively in the Spurs attack.
Adebayor will find a spot on the bench, and it's possible Dembele might be fit enough to make a substitute appearance. If Dembele still isn't fit, Andros Townsend or Iago Falque will get a call into the squad as an extra midfield option.
Rickie Lambert has been by far Southampton's best striker this season. However, Nigel Adkins chose to start him on the bench against West Ham. While no one will claim his fitness, work rate and defensive skills are great, Lambert has to be on the pitch for as long as he can from the start. With Southampton at home, look for Adkins to reinstate Lambert to the starting 11.
With Gaston Ramirez still sidelined with injury, Jay Rodriguez is the favorite to partner with Lambert. Rodriguez has yet to score a Premier League goal in seven appearances, but does have two goals in the Capital One Cup.
Perhaps the better option would be to give Emmanuel Mayuka his first start with the club. Mayuka has made four substitute appearances since joining the club from Young Boys in Switzerland. The Zambian international would add some pace to the frontline and take some of the pressure off of Lambert to perform defensive duties.
Tadanari Lee may be fit enough to make an appearance on the bench after missing time with a wrist injury. If Lee can't go, Guly Do Prado will become an option at striker with another midfielder, perhaps Jack Cork, who is coming off of a knee injury, or Steve De Ridder drafted into the side.
Tottenham are actually in quite a drought when it comes to picking up a result on the South Coast.
Tottenham have never scored a goal in St. Mary's Stadium, a total of five matches since the stadium's opening in 2001. Spurs' drought in picking up any points at Southampton dates back even longer, almost 13 years. Granted, the two teams haven't played since 2005, when Nigel Quashie scored the only goal in a 1-0 Saints victory.
That streak is likely coming to an end Sunday. While Southampton have a modest two-game unbeaten streak at home, Tottenham are simply the classier side. A point would be a great result for Southampton.
Final Score prediction: Tottenham 3, Southampton 1.