Positive Southampton can corner Man City
Visitors can't be trusted at the back
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday
Manchester City, mainstays of the Premier League top four over the past six seasons, are in a real scrap to squeeze into that elite group this term and trips to places such as Southampton don’t make their prospects any brighter.
Pep Guardiola’s men have three away games left and this is easily the toughest of them with the pressure-free Saints in good form as they aim to finish as high as eighth in the table.
City are odds-on but don’t appeal enormously at the prices. Their 3-1 win against Hull last time out was a first victory in five and yet again they conceded.
Both teams have scored in City’s last five and they’ve kept only eight league clean sheets all season – relegation-threatened Middlesbrough have kept more than that and Saints have managed 11 shutouts.
When Guardiola took the reins last summer he probably didn’t envisage a back five featuring Willy Caballero in goal, Aleksandar Kolarov at centre-back and Jesus Navas on the right but defensively City have been a work in progress throughout the campaign.
They are sumptuous going forward but those chinks at the back could ultimately cost them a top-four spot.
Whether Southampton have the firepower to expose those frailties is another issue for punters to consider.
Manolo Gabbiadini, the man signed to replace the crocked Charlie Austin, has himself been injured and Claude Puel gave the impression yesterday that the Italian may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Since goals from Shane Long or Jay Rodriguez are rare these days, Saints would be blunter if the ex-Napoli man cannot lead the line.
Southampton, who won this match 4-2 last season, are 18-5 chances for another victory and that looks generous for a side of their quality.
The negatives – aside from up front – are that Oriol Romeu, their top-class midfield machine, is suspended, while Virgil van Dijk remains an absentee at the back. Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida have developed a decent understanding but they can get detached and exposed.
Clean sheets against Bournemouth and West Brom in two of their last three matches are hard to criticise but the two centre-backs rode their luck in each match and City, with Sergio Aguero having scored ten in ten and supported by so many classy runners, would be far more likely to punish those errors.
City have scored 101 goals in all competitions this term and it’s 8-13 that both teams score which, given the defensive issues in both camps, is understandable.
Both teams should be positive – Southampton are far more forward-thinking than during Puel’s formative days and under Guardiola City only ever want to play up the pitch.
A bet to have, therefore, might be for Southampton to win at least five corners. They average 5.2 per game and in their last two home games have piled up 17.
The Saints lack a clinical goalscorer but they’ve pace and class going forward, bags of width, and can force their share of corners against a less than assured visiting defence.
Over 4.5 Southampton corners
1pt 11-10 bet365
Virgil van Dijk, Matt Targett and Charlie Austin are injured while Oriol Romeu is suspended. Manolo Gabbiadini has recovered from a groin strain and Steve Davis is fit after an ankle knock.
Bacary Sagna, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan are injured. Vincent Kompany has recovered from yet another niggle.
Both teams have scored in 20 of Manchester City’s 31 Premier League matches