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.
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…
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