Second-placed Southampton travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday to face Tottenham Hotspur, with former Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino now in charge of the Lilywhites.
Spurs have had a rather rocky start to the season. Supporters were thoroughly confident Pochettino was the man to lead them to glory after winning their first two games, but then only managed to gain two points from their last four fixtures.
Southampton, on the other hand, totally defied their critics after the mass exodus of players during the summer by sitting second on the table. Ronald Koeman’s tactics and the shrewd purchases of Dusan Tadic, Ryan Bertrand, and Graziano Pelle have seen the Saints win their last four games.
As the two sides meet this Sunday, we look at which battles can decide the much anticipated fixture between Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs and Ronald Koeman’s Southampton.
Here are FOUR KEY BATTLES that will decide Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton
Graziano Pelle was purchased from Feyenoord with an amazing goal record of 55 goals in just 66 appearances, but due to his failure in the Italian Serie A several years ago many looked past the stats and ignored his potential impact.
But Pelle, who worked with Koeman previously at Feyenoord, has settled in at Saint Mary’s like a duck to water already with four goals in his opening six Premier league games.
Tottenham’s Younnes Kaboul will be the man responsible for stopping the in-form 29-year-old, as if Pelle is given any space in the box he could punish the Lilywhites with his finishing ability.
Unlike the form of Pelle for Southampton, Adebayor has not been performing to his full ability but will be tasked to trouble the Saints backline marshalled by the impressive Jose Fonte.
The departure of Dejan Lovren to Liverpool put Southampton’s defence into question but the summer acquisition of Ryan Bertrand at left-back and the amazing form of Nathaniel Clyne on the right have seen the Saints concede only four goals thus far.
However if Adebayor is in top gear, Fonte must make sure he can nullify his presence.
Dusan Tadic was another summer Southampton signing that looks like he’s been playing in the Premier League for the last decade. The left-sided attacking midfielder is the Saint’s number one creative force, already conjuring three assists and has been relatively unlucky in yet finding the net, hitting the woodwork on a number of occasions.
Tasked with marking him is Spurs’ Eric Dier, who had an amazing start to his White Hart Lane career by notching two goals in the first two games. However it has been downhill from there, as Dier has been shifted to play right-back for the injured Kyle Walker and hasn’t looked as comfortable.
The young Cheltenham-born defender will have to step up his game against Tadic, as the Serbian will be attacking the right-back to supply or finally grab his first Premier League goal.
When Pochettino was in charge of the Saints last season he was able to transform the likes of Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert into players that could trouble any Premier League squad. Southampton were a tricky team to beat for anyone, and Spurs employed him hoping he would do the same at White Hart Lane.
But apart from their first two games, the Lilywhites looked flat in attack while vulnerable in defence, which is what was expected of Southampton and Ronald Koeman with so many summer changes. Koeman, however, turned the Saints back into a unit and are possibly even better than last season.
They both have had around the same amount of time with their new squads, but so far Koeman is winning the battle of the managers. Yet if Pochettino can get the best out of his star-studded squad featuring the likes of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela, then he could well redeem himself with the Spurs faithful.