Southampton vs Burnley
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium
Referee: Graham Scott
Southampton welcome Burnley to St Mary’s for their first game of the new Premier League season.
2017/18 was a tale of two very different seasons for these clubs. Southampton finished one place above the relegation zone after a desperately poor campaign in which the practice of selling their best players seemed to finally come back to hurt them. Burnley, on the other hand, shocked everyone by finishing seventh and in the process qualified for the Europa League.
Both teams have had fairly quiet transfer windows. Southampton have acquired the services of Mohamed Elyounoussi for £16m from Basel. The 23-year-old winger scored 23 goals in 83 games for the Swiss side and Mark Hughes will be hoping that he can help the Saints find the back of the net with a bit more ease than last season.
Southampton will also have new signings Stuart Armstrong from Celtic and Jannik Vestergaard from Borussia Dortmund to call upon.
Southampton’s two most significant departures are Dusan Tadic who has been sold to Ajax for £10million and Sofiane Boufal who has been loaned to Celta Vigo. Both players showed flashes of brilliance in their tenure on the south coast. Notably, Tadic breaking the Premier League assists record for a single game, registering four against Sunderland in 2014 and Boufal scoring one of the goals of the season against West Brom last year.
Burnley fans will be forgiven for feelings of apprehension over the upcoming season. With the added pressure of Europa League football, Sean Dyche will need to ensure he has the squad depth to keep up in the league. Their only two signing so far come in the form of centre-back Ben Gibson from Middlesborough and former England goalkeeper Joe Hart from Manchester City.
Dyche has traditionally preferred working with a small tight-knit group of players so it will be interesting to see how he juggles not only the extra games but also the extra pressure afforded onto him now that everyone has seen what he’s capable of.
Both teams had a mixed pre-season, but Burnley may come into this match slightly sharper as they have already started their Europe League campaign by knocking out Aberdeen.
This season could prove pivotal to both teams and managers as they look to break their stereotypes and show that they really can hack it with the big boys of the league.
Prediction: Southampton 1 Burnley 2
I’m expecting better things from Southampton this term, but Sean Dyche’s men will have a bit too much about them this time around I fear.