Southampton vs Leicester City
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Leicester City head South to St Mary’s this weekend, with their hosts searching for their first victory of the season. The Foxes on the other hand are heading into the fixture with three points already on the board, after seeing off newly promoted Wolves in a 2-0 victory last weekend.
It has been a precarious start for the Foxes who lost their opening fixture to Manchester United despite a spirited performance which ultimately deserved better. They then gained three points from Wolves, despite not being at their best and perhaps not deserving all three.
As for the Saints, they played out a desperate 0-0 draw on the opening weekend with Burnley which, after flirting with relegation last season, was not a positive sign for Southampton players and fans alike. Last weekend, they marginally lost out to Everton in a 2-1 defeat.
Claude Puel will be looking for a performance from his side mirroring that of the fixture vs Manchester United as the Frenchman returns to his former stomping group one year after being axed from the club. He was appointed shortly after his departure by the Foxes, and a month later successfully saw off his former side 4-1 in this fixture last season.
If the Saints do not register a victory this weekend, pressure may start to mount on Hughes so it is a particularly important game for him and his side.
The likely partnership up top will be Danny Ings and Charlie Austin, although Shane Long will be lurking in the shadows and will be looking to provide any needed firepower if called upon. Austin and Ings performed well against Everton and with the latter getting his first goal back at the Saints, he will be carrying great confidence into this fixture.
Despite potentially being a doubt, defender Jannik Vestergaard is fit and available for the trip of Leicester after missing out against Everton due to illness. It was Stephens and Hoedt who played a central defensive role last weekend with Soares and Bertrand either side, yet with the availability of Vestergaard, Hughes may opt for the 3-4-3 formation as seen on the opening day against Burnley or he may stick to a 4-4-2 with either one of the trio missing out.
The only other doubt for the Saints is Norway international Mohamed Elyounuossi. After signing for a reported £16m this summer, the striker made his debut against Burnley as a substitute. With the player only returning to training on Thursday, a place in the starting XI is very unlikely, although a cameo from the bench is probable.
The main team news surrounding the Foxes is the absence of Jamie Vardy. The striker was shown a straight red card last weekend after a reckless challenge on Wolves Matt Doherty and will subsequently be out for the next three games.
With Leicester selling Ahmed Musa and Leonardo Ulloa as well as sending Islam Slimani out on loan. they are left with little options in terms of individuals to lead the line. Shinji Okazaki, although recovering, remains injured which will leave Kelechi Iheanacho up top taking over Vardy’s role. Mark Hughes admitted the absence of the England striker will provide a welcome boost to his side but did insist the Foxes would have a reliable replacement to call upon.
After impressive performances against both United and Wolves, new signing James Maddison will once again be hoping to impress for his new side. With this in mind, his manager has this week backed the youngster to break into the England squad this season, which gives the new recruit great momentum going into the fixture.
Matty James remains unavailable as well as new signing Caglar Soyuncu who is not yet ready to be consider for selection after only joining up with the squad last week. After dropping the club captain Wes Morgan against Wolves, he may be recalled to replace Evans and Mendy may be dropped to the bench, replaced by either Silva, Iborra or King.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Southampton: McCarthy; Cedric, Vestergaard, Hoedt, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Lemina, Redmond; Austin, Ings
Leicester: Schmeichal; Periera, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Albrighton, Ndidi, Mendy, Gray; Maddison, Iheanacho
Score Prediction – Southampton 1 Leicester City 2
Despite picking up three points last weekend, the Foxes performance was somewhat lack-lustre and Puel will be looking for an instant response from his side. Southampton have been struggling to score goals despite many chances, and Danny Ings strike last week against Everton will have come as a relief. If Ings and Austin strike up a partnership, it could be a danger to many Premier League sides, yet with the Saints only winning one of their last seven meetings against Leicester, I expect Puel to get one over on his former side.