Cherries look primed for victory over depleted Saints
Sky Sports 1, 1.30pm
Bournemouth have not achieved back-to-back wins since the start of the Premier League season but that may well change with victory over Southampton at the Vitality Stadium.
The Cherries stayed up comfortably last season despite an ordinary home record of five wins, five draws and nine defeats.
This term they are thriving in the top flight and the main reason is their much-improved results on home turf.
Only Chelsea and Tottenham have registered more top-flight home wins than Bournemouth this season and the Cherries’ five victories on their own patch already equals last season’s total.
Visiting teams have been finding it tough and Southampton arrive at a difficult moment due to the absence of two of their most influential players.
Top scorer Charlie Austin is continuing his recovery from a shoulder injury sustained in the Europa League 1-1 draw at home to Hapoel Be’er Sheva and key holding midfielder Oriel Romeu will sit out a league game for the first time this season due to a one-game ban.
Saints boss Claude Puel has often rotated his players but he has made exceptions for Romeu and centre-backs Jose Fonte and
Virgil Van Dijk, who are crucial to providing the stability Southampton have shown this season.
They have posted seven league clean sheets this season – only Chelsea have more – but without Romeu doing his sterling work in front of the back four they are likely to be more vulnerable than usual.
They have also looked a shade toothless with Austin out of the side. Six of Saints’ 14 league goals this season have come from the striker, who started the season on the fringes of the team, and they were held to a 0-0 draw at Stoke on Wednesday despite playing against ten men after Marko Arnautovic’s 23rd-minute dismissal.
A big plus for Southampton has been the recent form of attacking midfielder Sofiane Boufal, an exciting, inventive player who scored their goal in a 1-0 home win over Middlesbrough last Sunday.
But Saints do not appear to have enough players with an eye for goal and cannot match the firepower of Bournemouth, who have an array of pacy forwards and a top-class midfielder in Arsenal loanee Jack Wilshere to create the chances.
Bournemouth have not been higher than tenth this season but success over Saints could send them as high as seventh and they have the quality and depth in their squad to mount a sustained push for a top-half finish.
Finishing above Southampton – who are currently above them on goal difference – is not a fanciful concept and the Cherries look overpriced 2-1 shots to win today’s south-coast battle.
1pt 2-1 bet365, Betfair, BoyleSports
Striker Callum Wilson has been cleared of concussion and is set to feature but Ryan Fraser (ankle) is ruled out.
Oriel Romeu is suspended and Charlie Austin (shoulder) misses out but Cedric Soares has recovered from illness.
Southampton have won only one of their last eight top-flight away fixtures