Southampton's Probable Starting 11 to Face Manchester United
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
While Southampton are flying high on a three-game winning streak and currently sit fourth in the Premier League table, many have their doubts that the Saints can maintain that form.
Southampton will get the chance to prove the doubters wrong on Saturday when the Saints travel to face defending champions Manchester United.
The last time the Saints went to Old Trafford, they lost 2-1 but earned the praises of Sir Alex Ferguson, who said that United "were a bit lucky" and that Mauricio Pochettino's squad "gave the best performance anyone's given here [last] season."
Southampton won't be content with just a good performance. The Saints truly believe they can go into Old Trafford and pick up a result. Here's a look at the probable starting 11 that will look to pick up three points on Saturday.
Goalkeeper: Artur Boruc
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
There had been concerns about the availability of goalkeeper Artur Boruc after the Polish international did not start in Tuesday's game against England at Wembley, with Wojceich Szczesny getting the nod.
It was reported by the Southern Daily Echo that Boruc had sustained a hamstring strain in last Friday's match against Ukraine.
However, Pochettino seemed to dismiss those concerns in a press conference today.
According to Sky Sports, Pochettino said: "Artur is OK. There is some news that has come out, which is not true, regarding his fitness. He is fine.
"He has been training for three days. He has been training well and we hope that he will be perfect for Saturday's game."
Boruc has been stellar for Southampton. The 33-year-old has kept five clean sheets in seven starts, only conceding 0.29 goals per match and stopping 6.5 shots per goal goal conceded, a save percentage of 86.7 percent according to Squawka.
If Boruc is indeed injured, look for long-time Saint Kelvin Davis to fill in.
Centre-Backs: Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren
Dejan Lovren has proven to be a tremendous signing for the Saints so far.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Another reason for Southampton's flying start is the stable centre-back pairing of Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren.
The duo have played every minute in the centre of defence for the Saints. Fonte and Lovren each bring their own different qualities to the position that has made the pair a hard combo to break down.
Both men are hard to beat in the air, as Fonte and Lovren both rank in the top 20 in aerial duels won per match, with 3.6 and 4.3 duels won per game respectively, according to WhoScored.com.
Lovren is a master of stopping dribbling attacks. The Croatian has only been beaten on the dribble once the entire season. In addition, the former Lyon back averages 2.7 tackles per match according to WhoScored, one of the top numbers for a centre-back.
Fonte has proven to be more skilled at cutting out passes. WhoScored shows that the Portuguese is averaging 2.3 interceptions per match, 19th best in the Premier League. The 29-year-old also ranks in the top 20 in clearances (8.9, 11th) and blocked shots (1.0, 12th).
The first-choice pairing has been so successful, it has kept Japanese international Maya Yoshida firmly planted on the bench.
Full-Backs: Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Since recovering from an early-season injury, Nathaniel Clyne has been making a case to be included in the England squad for the 2014 World Cup.
After Clyne regained his spot in the starting 11 from Calum Chambers, the Saints' defence has become even stingier. On the four occasions Clyne has appeared in the starting lineup, Southampton have not conceded a goal.
Clyne has been a wizard in the tackling department this season, ranking sixth in the Premier League with 4.4 tackles per match, according to WhoScored.
Luke Shaw should be fit to take his place opposite Clyne on the left side. The 18-year-old missed out on Southampton's last game against Swansea City and also a call-up to the England U-21s with a bout of tonsillitis.
"The last few days (Shaw) has been training well, he has been OK," Pochettino said in today's news conference as per Sky Sports.
"We hope that he will be physically fit for the game on Saturday against Manchester United."
Defensive Midfielders: Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama
Clive Rose/Getty Images
The defensive midfield of Pochettino's preferred 4-2-3-1 has been another area of consistency this season.
Both Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have started all seven matches for Southampton so far this season.
Schneiderlin has picked up right where he left off last season. The Frenchman ranks in the top 10 of the Premier League with 3.7 tackles per match.
With Wanyama alongside him to do some of the dirty work (Wanyama ranks second in the Premier League with 2.7 fouls per match, according to WhoScored), Schneiderlin can become more of a playmaker.
The 23-year-old leads the Saints in pass-completion percentage with an 87.3 percent success rate.
That's not to say that the Southampton can't build an attack through Wanyama as well. The Kenyan is second on the Saints in passes per match with 51 passes per match, according to WhoScored.
Attacking Midfielders: Steven Davis, Adam Lallana and Dani Osvaldo
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Attacking midfield is the one area of the Southampton lineup that gives Pochettino pause when filling out his team sheet each week.
Most weeks will see at least one high-priced signing forced to sit on the bench or, in some cases, not even making the squad at all.
One regular has been team captain Adam Lallana. The 25-year-old has been making a case for England inclusion with his recent play.
Lallana ranks in the top 20 in Premier League play with 1.9 key passes per match, and only Mesut Ozil has more assists (three) than Lallana's two so far this season, according to WhoScored.
Since arriving from Roma, Dani Osvaldo has also been a regular presence in the Saints lineup. While the Italian international has struggled to adapt to his new surroundings and position a bit, one cannot deny the class and flair Osvaldo can bring to the pitch.
The final position is up for grabs. Jay Rodriguez, James Ward-Prowse and Gaston Ramirez have all had opportunities to make the position their own this season. But the current in-form choice is Steven Davis.
Davis has started in each of the last two matches, both 2-0 victories over Crystal Palace and Swansea. The former Rangers captain assisted on Adam Lallana's goal against Swansea and scored a goal of his own for Northern Ireland against Israel on Tuesday.
With Pochettino most likely wanting to apply maximum pressure on Manchester United, Davis makes the most sense, being the most defensively-minded option at the position.
The 28-year-old averages 1.0 tackles and 0.6 interceptions per match, according to WhoScored. Rodriguez, Ward-Prowse or Ramirez can't match him in either category.
Striker: Rickie Lambert
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Most Southampton fans were a bit disappointed not to see Rickie Lambert see any action for England in this week's World Cup qualifiers.
The positive aspect of this is that Lambert should be well rested and will have the opportunity to stick it to both Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, who both saw action for England ahead of him.
Lambert has also been a consistent presence, starting all seven matches for Southampton.