13:30 GMT, Sunday 3rd December, Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth, England), Sky Sports Premier League
After losing five of their first six matches, the Cherries are now looking much healthier despite not fully living up to their potential this season. With only two home wins, Bournemouth have already beaten fellow South Coast side Brighton at the Vitality Stadium this season and will look for another vital three points from this fixture.
With only four points keeping them ahead of the relegation places, it’s starting to look like being a long season for Bournemouth’s fans, however, a win on Sunday will take them above Southampton who currently lie 11th in the table.
Southampton’s up and down season has certainly been a bumpy affair for new manager Mauricio Pellegrino, although, it’s all evened itself out to leave the Saints sitting in mid-table. With only five points taken from their six away games, Southampton will be hoping that this short journey will not leave them feeling travel-sick, especially having won five of their last eight fixtures against Bournemouth with only a solitary loss against the Cherries during this time.
Last time out
Bournemouth 1-2 Burnley (Premier League)
Eddie Howe had a birthday to forget as his side fell to a narrow defeat against a workman-like Burnley. Bournemouth controlled possession throughout the game but could do nothing with the ball while the Clarets showed an incisiveness distinctly missing from the Cherries on Wednesday.
With Burnley closing down any spaces that Bournemouth tried to explore, Howe’s side were found guilty of not moving the ball fast enough or making enough off-the-ball runs to cut a path through the Burnley defence.
Aside from the difference in playing styles between the two sides, Burnley are also a team who’s players are all in form at the moment. Bournemouth’s Harry Arter was one player that looked out-of-sorts during the match, often conceding possession cheaply with misplaced passes.
Following a poor first half, Howe’s substitutions did add some vigour into the Cherries’ display but Josh King’s 79th-minute goal was more consolation than a source of expectation in finding another.
Manchester City 2-1 Southampton (Premier League)
Southampton fell at the very last hurdle after holding their own against City for 96 minutes of the game. It was a heartbreaking end to the match for the away fans as Raheem Sterling found a win deep into stoppage time to leave the Saints empty-handed despite deserving more. While Fraser Forster made a series of fine saves to deny the Cityzens, he was far from being the Saints’ best player.
The first half passed without too much incident as the Saints restricted an uninspired City side through deploying an extra centre-back to their usual formation, however, a deflected goal just after the interval gave the home side the lead.
Having battled back from this deficit through the introduction of Sofiane Boufal, they looked a threat in attack, especially through an aerial route which City looked uncomfortable in dealing with. With time running out and a point looking to be their just reward for a disciplined and dogged performance, Sterling pulled the rug from under their feet in the 97th minute.
Tyrone Mings continues to recover from a back injury and Junior Stanislas has a groin problem although the latter could make a surprise start with a late fitness test scheduled to decide whether his quick recovery will allow him to play this weekend.
Few changes are expected to be made in the Cherries starting lineup, however, Lewis Cook could find himself elevated to the team as could Ryan Fraser in a bid to add more energy to a team playing their third game in eight days.
Cédric Soares has picked up a hamstring injury and is not expected to play this weekend while Matt Targett (knock) is also unavailable for the defence. Shane Long is expected to be fit in time to start for the Saints and should return to the side along with the three attacking players who started against Everton that were left out of the previous game against City.
Key Battle: Andrew Surman (Bournemouth) vs Oriol Romeu (Southampton)
The game between these two southern sides is likely to be decided through the midfield as an attritional game looms on the horizon. Surman will be a key part of Howe’s plans and after having a poor match against Burnley, the former Southampton player will be keen to redeem himself against a club he knows well.
With his driving influence from midfield and two assists from his last four games, Surman will also take the set-pieces for Bournemouth which could deliver them a route to victory.
While Mario Lemina is viewed as the most vital part of Southampton’s midfield, the £20m signing has only just returned from a month-long injury and was understandably overshadowed by Romeu during the defeat against City on Wednesday evening.
Romeu was a star player for the Saints last season and while it’s taken time for him to find his feet under the new manager, he looks to be up and running once again. Romeu’s goal against the Cityzens was his first of the season but while he will never be prolific in front of goal, his ability to prevent the opposition from scoring is often a more important trait for the Saints to carry in their team.
Time for a change
With many managers using some form of a rotation system to guide their team through this busy period, Howe will most likely be looking at factors other than fatigue when he makes his selection for this match. Bournemouth have often been described by Howe as having played below-par following too many recent fixtures and it’s becoming clear that some of his players are falling out of form.
With each of his three substitutes, Lewis Cook, Ryan Fraser and Jermain Defoe all looking hungrier than the players they replaced against Burnley, he now knows he has viable options available to the team.
With Stanislas also due back to action soon following a two-month injury, Bournemouth will also have their most creative player back in the fold for selection before too much longer. While Howe’s stubbornness to play a less expansive brand of football is admirable, he can no longer afford to drag his heels on bringing about a change to the players chosen to implement his plans.
After four months to adapt to both his new club and new environment of the Premier League, Southampton are at last finding their new direction under Mauricio Pellegrino. Having spent time with the new players under his charge, he’s now putting this understanding into practice with a well-balanced team the main result of this.
While the Cityzens eventually overcame the Saints and could boast 74% possession from the game, Southampton looked solid at the back and still carried a threat of their own despite limited opportunities to do so.
They may only have picked up one positive result from their last four games, however, the three teams which beat them are all currently occupying positions in the top-six. The 4-1 win over Everton could be seen as a bolt from the blue but it can also be viewed as a sign they’re a team capable of producing some exhilarating performances.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Southampton
While not technically a local derby, this is a game which both sides will not want to lose. With the middle to bottom of the table becoming condensed with only a few points separating everyone, a win will help the club look up rather down and can establish a new mentality within the dressing room.
With more quality throughout their side, a stronger mentality and better form coming into this fixture, Southampton look poised to be the team left aspiring at the full-time whistle from this match.
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