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Sunday, 12th August 2018 Kick-off 13:30
Saints V Borussia Monchengladbach The Preview
Saturday, 4th Aug 2018 09:53
Saints play their final friendly of the pre season at St Mary's, but what will this game tell Mark Hughes and will it be a pointer to the coming season.
It will be interesting to see how Mark Hughes lines up his side for the visit of German side Borussia Monchengladbach, will it give Saints fans any indication of just what Hughes considers to be his best starting XI or will it once again be a case of mix and match.
Hughes has done a little bit of both in the recent friendlies, although he has yet to put out anything resembling his best XI, he has tended to keep the core of the first half side intact with only 3/4 changes at the break followed by further changes on the hour, but he has not as of yet given any great clues on who he considers his best starting players.
Also open for debate is how he will line up the side, so against Celta Vigo he played three central defenders allowing the likes of Bertrand to push on a little bit, but whether this was due to him not having Cedric Soares available and therefore no recognised right back or a genuine tactical ploy, is open for debate.
Perhaps this game will give us more of a clue towards Hughes thinking both in terms of his favoured tactics and whom he considers his key players.
Certainly he has plenty of options available in all departments, although Saints supporters main concern is that of the three striking options each has a question mark against his name for the coming season, Charlie Austin because of injury, Shane Long for his goals to game ratio and Manolo Gabbiadini as to whether he can fit into Hughes style of play.
Personally I think that Hughes will start the season with McCarthy as his first choice keeper, however Im not convinced that going forward he sees him in that position, McCarthy deserves to start because of his exploits in the final games of last season, but I would not bet against Angus Gunn being first pick by the end of the season.
I think that Hoedt & Vestergaard are his top two central defenders with Bednarek as third choice if he is playing a back three or one of his first two are not available.
In midfield he has plenty of options both centrally and out wide, If Mario Lemina stays and gets his act together consistently then it could be a good year and there are good options out wide,
Up front I think a fit Charlie Austin would be in the starting XI, but there are question marks over whether he can stay fit.
Borussia Monchengladbach don't start their Bundesliga campaign for another three weeks so they will be a little behind Saints in their preparation and they will be looking to improve on what they would consider a poor season last time out finishing 9th after struggling in the first half of the season.
The reality of friendlies is that ultimately the result matters little, on Wednesday night I heard several people walking out of the stadium complaining loudly that it was the same old problems for Saints and this season would be as bad as the last.
That is a little incredulous given that they had just watched a slow paced games where Saints were not only missing key players, were not playing anywhere near their best starting XI and made multiple changes.
Last season was one with many issues both on and off the pitch, we have sorted the cause of these, re grouped and can now go forward with confidence, hopefully we can start enjoying going to games again this term, but first we have to watch without prejudice, forget last season and base our opinions on what we are watching now, it is not about the past it is about the future.
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