AFC Bournemouth vs Southampton
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Referee: Lee Probert
Bournemouth will look to capitalise on their current form against a struggling Southampton side and remain in contention for a Europa League position.
The clash on the South coast has predominantly been dominated by Southampton, as Bournemouth have only managed two wins out of the previous 14 encounters. However, Eddie Howe will be more than aware of Southampton’s current state of affairs and will look to capitalise and put the Saints to the sword.
Fans can expect a game with plenty of goals as the Cherries have racked up a total of 16 goals so far this season, while also conceding 12. Southampton have been on the receiving end of the goals as in the last three games their aggregate score has been 0-8; a worrying sign for Mark Hughes.
The first eight games of the 2018-19 campaign have been games to forget for the Saints as they hover precariously above the relegation zone by only two points. After scraping themselves into the 2018/19 Premier League season, Mark Hughes vowed to bring exciting football back to St. Mary’s.
However, the Saints haven’t managed to hit the back of the net in their previous three Premier League appearances, and if they fail to score this weekend they will equal their league record of four games without scoring a goal, previously set in 1993, a stat which Mark Hughes will not want to replicate.
Attacking football is not the issue as the Saints have the third highest amount of shots in the Premier League this year, sitting only behind Manchester City (175) and Chelsea (142), though being confident and clinical in front of goal seems to be the problem.
With proven goal scorers in the side such as Danny Ings and Charlie Austin, there may be issues behind the scenes which have not been projected into the media. Southampton’s social media has portrayed the side as being full of laughs and skilful goals, but evidently this has not been transferred onto the pitch. The Saints’ campaign can surely only go up from here and it may only take one comfortable win to fire them into motion.
Coming off the back of a convincing 4-0 win against Watford, Eddie Howe will be confident that the Cherries can carry their excellent form following the international break. The Cherries are flying high in the Premier League currently sitting in sixth position, a remarkable achievement from a side who have only relatively recently come through the ranks of the English football league. Not only has the hard work of the team and background staff been noted, but the loyalty of both club and manager to the Cherries is admirable in a day and age where manager’s position withins teams are heavily scrutinised.
One aspect of Bournemouth’s game that Howe would look to improve on is their defensive abilities. While scoring 16 goals at this stage of the competition is something to be proud of, sustaining a Europa League spot will be difficult if goals are being conceded. At an average of 1.5 goals a game, the Cherries defence has been shaky at times, notably after conceding four in theirun-inin with West Ham earlier in the season; perhaps a trait that Mark Hughes will look to exploit.
Ryan Fraser is the only Bournemouth player to currentlly be doubtful for the clash against Southampton, and with three goals this season he has been a vital part of the Cherries run of form. Fraser will be frustrated as it is his second hamstring injury in as many months, and will inevitably want to be involved in their current run in the Premier League. However, Howe wont be too worried with the injury as their two main strikers, Callum Wilson and Josh King, currently have seven goals between them; firepower up front is the least of Howe’s concerns.
Keeping players fit is a vital part of maintaining form and the lack of injuries in the side can be put down to smart background work and a slight element of luck, something that Eddie Howe will wish to continue this season as they push for the Europa League position.
Southampton have currently been able to maintain a season with no notable injuries in the side, which in any normal circumstance, would be a blessing. However, it can be argued that the ample choice has put pressure on Mark Hughes to give multiple players a chance in the side which has led to a lack of solidity in the side.
Mark Hughes has picked a consistent side for the past few weeks, and he will hope that this side can gel before they get themselves into serious bother, hovering around the relegation zone. One thing Hughes can be grateful for is that it is early in the season which allows the team a lot of time to rectify their issues and improve their form.
Predicted Starting XI’s
AFC Bournemouth – (4-4-2): Begovic; Francis, S.Cook, Ake, A.Smith; Brooks, Cook, Lerma, Fraser; Wilson, King.
Southampton – (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cedric, Vestergaard, Hoedt, Bertrand; El Younoussi, Lemina, Hojbjerg, Redmond; Austin, Ings.
Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 1 Southampton 2
With the pressure that Southampton have showed in the recent weeks I believe that the international break will be the recovery period that the Saints need, and going by their previous encounters against the Cherries, it will give them the confidence to believe they can go and get three points from the game and truly kick-start their season.