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Southampton 1 v 2 Burnley
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 15th February 2020 Kick-off 12:30
Saints V Burnley The Preview
Friday, 14th Feb 2020 09:57

This is a game that will shape the final third of the season, Saints need to break the hoodoo that the Turf Moor side have over them and get three points that will not only pull them clear of relegation but make a top three place a real possibility.

Up to a few years ago, Burnley were a side we did well against in the main, but that has changed of late, in our last six encounters we have failed to win one, with three defeats and three draws, our last win came in October 2016 at St Mary's when Claude Puel's side dispatched the Clarets 3-1 with two goals from Charlie Austin and another from Nathan Redmond being enough to see off the Lancashire side whose consolation came from Saints fan Sam Vokes from the spot.

From the starting line up that day, only Redmond and Oriol Romeu are at the club, although of the 7 subs, 4 are likely to start on Saturday, Alex McCarthy, James Ward Prowse, Pierre Emille Hojbjerg and Shane Long, with a fifth Sam McQueen, still at the club, strangely a sixth member of our bench may also start the game, Jay Rodriguez who is now back with the club we originally signed him from.

But that was then and this is now and we need to make sure it is lucky 7 for Saints and get the three points, I said in an article on Thursday that this is a pivotal game, the result will go a long way in showing us what the season may hold in the final third, will it be chasing a top 10 spot, mid table obscurity neither looking up or down or a month or two looking over our shoulders till we get the couple of wins under our belt to banish relegation.

Getting the first of those wins on Saturday would be a big leap forward.

But it will not be easy, Burnley are a well drilled side, but with respect to them not spectacular, like us they can be hard to beat, but let themselves down at key moments.

They are not a high scoring side especially on the road where they have won only three times, drawn three and lost six, scoring only 12 and conceding 20, these statistics highlight my opinion of them.

That is worrying, our record this season almost mirror images theirs, we have been poor at home and decent away, so we have the poorest home side in the Premier League facing one of the poorest on the road, on the face of it goals don't look likely.

Bluntly they are just the sort of side we don't like to face at St Mary's, they will sit back and go at us from the break and at set pieces and defensively we are very weak, yes our defence has picked up of late, but anyone who thinks that our central defenders are good enough should look at the last 5 games where we have conceded 11 goals, most of them poorly defended, yes we have improved but we are still not good enough.

Our main worry is whether James Ward Prowse will play, in the Premier League he has played every minute of every game and he has played them in several positions including right back, his versatility has been good for us, but we will miss his ability to not only pick a pass but to score a goal or two, he has his critics, but in the past year they have been basing their criticism on performances prior to 2019, since he got back into the team in January 2019 he has arguably been our most vital player.

With Burnley sitting back as they did in the opening game of the season against us at Turf Moor in a game we looked comfortable in and about to go on and win till they caught us on the break three times in 12 second half minutes, we need JWP to unlock their defence.

Right back will also be an issue and I suspect Kye Walker Peters to make his debut, after all what is the point of signing him if you don't play him, he is short of match practice, but so are his two rivals for the spot in Yan Valery and Kevin Danso and to be blunt there probably won't be a better game than this to slot into the defence.

So I am not expecting this game to be a classic, but I am hoping that we can cut out the errors at the back in the last 5 games and keep it tight enabling us to control the game rather than chase it.

As I have said, we win this game and we have a shot at the top 10 and to achieve that would be a miracle, but it would also be a good indicator of where we are as a club, it would mean 5 top 10 finishes out of 7 seasons and that would not be a bad record.

We are still a work in progress, we are still weak defensively, we will win games this season and we will throw away games through poor marking and defending, we have to make sure that this is not one of those games and we have to make sure that we get away with it at the back a lot more than we don't.

Photo: Action Images

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LoisDeem added 10:00 - Feb 14
If we resume our attention to the opposition's goal, the weather may even help us.

Block8 added 11:01 - Feb 14
Just a couple of points from your column Nick. Totally agree with the importance of JWP, strongly believe the results against Liverpool and Spurs could have been reversed if he had been in midfield.
However you can just as easily blame our deficiency in putting the ball in the net for our poor defensive performance this season! The way we play demands an extremely high level of effort throughout the team and we seem to let in goals late in games due to tiredness. That is largely due to the two machines we have in midfield running out of steam. Definitely the case at Liverpool! A high press will always leave the defence exposed. So if we could put away a higher percentage of chances, and we create a lot, the pressure t o keep pressing so high is less. Easing the work required to get back in shape when the opposition has the ball back.

arthurfane added 12:13 - Feb 14
Nick, you might want to change the typo in the first paragraph - "make a top three place a real possibility" might even be a bit deluded for Saints' 'happy clappers'.

Completely agree with the premise of the article though: this is a match that will set the tone for the rest of the season. Win & we're looking up at the top 8-10. Lose and we will begin to be dragged back into the scrap. Think 18th this year will have a record points haul - let's please avoid that being us.

Think Ralf will be sensible with Prowsey and won't risk him if any danger is aggravating the injury. KWP simply has to start and I think we'll benefit hugely from having Armstrong back starting on the right.

On another note, it's been a long time since we've had so many exciting attacking options on the bench: Djenepo, Boufal, Obafemi and Adams could all change a game in a heartbeat.

A1079 added 12:18 - Feb 14
Block 8. You make some good points.

Nick's focus has always been on the frailties and errors in defence and whilst they are valid points, very little is made of our poor conversion rate up front.

From my recollection, during last summer, we were all saying, we will score loads, but concede loads. Well, the latter has happened, but the former has not. I guess there was some expectation that Che Adams would continue on from where he left off in the championship, but that has not come to fruition as clearly the adjustment is greater than he possibly expected (and his opportunities have been limited). Long and Redmond, for all their hard work, are poor finishers. Goals from our midfielders are quite rare.

The high pressing is a good strategy but it needs to reap the benefits when we are on top. It does leave our back exposed, but there is evidence that the team tire in the last quarter of the game.

darthvader added 15:12 - Feb 14
Nick pass me what you are smoking mate . Sweet jesus . Im an optimist but even i would need to be absolutly off my nut to think we could get to top 3 .

mattthelegend added 18:39 - Feb 14
Just hope the crowd are patient with this game, can’t see it being a classic as Sean Dyche doesn’t set up for it. Early goal would be nice.

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