It was at this point last month, guided by Nigel Adkins, that Southampton were finally starting to look like an accomplished Premier League team and building up a steam in their survival crusade. Fast forward to the present and Mauricio Pochettino is now at the helm having sensationally replaced Adkins at St Mary’s less than a month prior prompting widespread surprise and condemnation for the Saints board. Its fair to say that the South Coast club have found it tough going under Pochettino thus far, failing to win in the three games since his arrival. But if there is one thing the Argentinian excels at it is pushing clubs to punch above their weight, something he achieved at Espanyol, and to his credit Southampton have moved the ball better in recent weeks, especially against Wigan when they deserved to leave the North West with more than a share of the spoils. But with Pochettino and the club still tangled in a sticky transitional period the last team they’d want to face is title chasing Manchester City.

This has been tagged as a must win game for City by manager Roberto Mancini after he watched his side fall nine points behind leaders and local rivals Manchester United last weekend. Defending the title they won in dramatic circumstances last May has left the champions running on empty and it’s hardly a shock that they find themselves playing catchup on United. Offloading Mario Balotelli to Milan last month has put the onus on Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez to fire City back to the top-flight summit. They proved last week that there is still enough left in the tank to challenge when coming from behind to snatch a point from Liverpool, stretching their unbeaten run to eight games, while Aguero’s breathtaking equaliser exemplify’s the present abundance of quality at the Etihad Stadium.

Team News

Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne are both doubs after withdrawing from the England under-21 squad in midweek. Gaston Ramirez and Guly do Prado are also struggling to be fit in time.

Yaya and Kolo Toure are back from African Cup of Nations duty, while Vincent Kompany and Maicon could be available.

What the managers said…

“We played games in which we have deserved to get more points than we have done, but I think the way we are approaching games and playing are the way in which we will start to pick up points. All of our matches are difficult in this division, but we know that Manchester City were the champions last season so we will need to be at our best to beat them. For me, Manchester City are a great team with great individual players and they can decide a match on their own.” Mauricio Pochettino believes Southampton deserved more from his first three games in charge (sainstsfc.co.uk)
“Manchester United have done better than us this season because they won a lot of games. They have nine points more than us. But if we can recover eight points in six games, recovering nine in 13 games will be easy. I never remember the title race being finished 10 or 13 games before the end. Three years ago Chelsea were nine points behind at one point. By the time they played at Old Trafford two or three games from the end, they were only three points behind. In the end, if Manchester United win all their games from now to the end of the season, they deserve to win. But I am sure we have another chance.” Roberto Mancini maintains his side can claw back the nine point gap held by Manchester United (Manchester Evening News)

Pre-match Fact: Southampton striker Rickie Lambert needs just one more goal to bring up his century for the South Coast club.

Prediction: Southampton 1-3 Manchester City

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