Southampton kick off their Premier League campaign with a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton on Saturday afternoon, with Ralph Hasenhuttl hoping to oversee the Saints’ first opening day victory since 2013.
Unfortunately for Southampton, they also possess a woeful record away at Everton, with their last win there coming in November 1997, so history is not on their side as they prepare to face Rafa Benitez’s team.
Saints fans may not be in a confident mood following the summer exits of players such as Ryan Bertrand, Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard either, but there could be excitement about new signings such as Romain Perraud, Adam Armstrong and Tino Livramento ahead of the trip to Merseyside.
Here’s how Football FanCast expects Hasenhuttl to line up his side against the Toffees, with two players making their competitive debuts for the Saints…
Fraser Forster gets the nod to start ahead of Alex McCarthy in goal, with the 33-year-old more adept at coming for crosses than his teammate, which could be key to stopping Benitez’s side on Saturday.
Following Vestergaard’s exit, Mohammed Salisu partners Jan Bednarek at centre-back, with Perraud making his debut at left-back and Kyle Walker-Peters keeping his usual place on the right.
In midfield, James Ward-Prowse appears to have recovered from the injury which kept him out of pre-season, so he partners Oriol Romeu in the middle.
Livramento, who has often played in defence, earns a start on the right-hand side of midfield in the hope that he can provide some added protection down Everton’s left flank, with Lucas Digne likely to cause problems with his impressive crosses into the box. Stuart Armstrong, whose nine goal involvements last term was the fourth-highest in the squad, is too important to drop, so he moves to the left.
That leaves no place in the XI for Nathan Redmond, who often lined up on the flanks last season but produced only five goal involvements and had a modest WhoScored rating of 6.55 compared to Armstrong’s 6.82.
Finally, after some superb pre-season performances, Nathan Tella partners Che Adams up front, although it would not be a surprise to see both Broja and Armstrong featuring from the bench at Goodison Park.