|Crystal Palace 1 v 0 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 12th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints At Crystal Palace The Preview
Friday, 11th Sep 2020 11:45
Saints head up to London for the opening game of the season, but will they raid the palace for the second time this calendar year or will it be our traditional poor start to the season, we take a look at the game here.
Saints usually start appallingly in a new season, it has become a standing joke and almost a tradition, but with this year seeing things done differently in football terms, perhaps it will break the cycle and it will be a rare win for Saints on the opening day.
I'm not even going to bother listing the opening dayers in the past 40 years where we have won, suffice to say I can count them on one hand.
But Selhurst Park is as traditionally a happy hunting ground for us as the opening fixture is a graveyard, so the hope is things can be different, firstly this doesn't feel like an opener it almost feels like last season hasn't stopped and this is just an extension and that could be to our advantage.
Palace had an awful end to last season and they will maybe feel the same way about this season and that would be a good thing for us.
There is not a lot that can be discussed about where the changes may be made for this game from the final day win over Sheffield United less than two months ago, of our two new signings Kyle Walker Peters was here on loan and Mohamed Salisu is far from fit at the moment, so injuries aside it is hard to see Ralph changing much from the 9 games after the restart
On the injury front aside from Salisu being unavailable, Stuart Armstrong has picked up a knock on International duty and is doubtful for the game, however the extend of the injury is unclear so this could more be Ralph playing mind games ahead of the clash than the Scot being 100% out.
So I would expect that the line up would be fairly similar to the Sheffield United game.
Alex McCarthy will start the season as number 1 although it is not quite clear who will be number 2, it will be Forster or Gunn with one going out on loan, but that is yet to be decided.
In the back four I think it will be business as usual with KWP, Bednarek, Stephens & Bertrand.
If we assume Armstrong isn't fit then a straight four across the middle of Smallbone, JWP, Romeu, Redmond with a front two of Ings & Adams.
The subs bench looks strong as well.
Forster/Gunn, Vestergaard, Vokins, Djenepo, Long & Obafemi look to be the probable first 6 on the bench and then Ralph has to pick from Boufal, Valery and perhaps even Josh Sims or Callum Slattery.
He has decent options out there although the manager himself has said he feels he needs a direct replacement for Hojbjerg to come in.
I hope that Ralph has learn't his lesson from last year, that he wont try a back three in this game, I think that is his ultimate aim, but to start with keep it simple and what served us so well during lockdown.
I think the squad is stronger than it was a year ago, both in terms of personnel, experience and more importantly team spirit.
Although we have lost Hojbjerg, our new signings of last year Adams & Djenepo now have a year working with Hasenhuttl under their belts and are more understanding of what is needed in the Premier League, add to that Kyle Walker Peters and the steady development of Michael Obafemi and I think that we have more about us than a year ago.
Yes we still need a central midfielder and I feel an experienced central defender, but we are moving forward.
What we have to avoid is the poor period we had last Autumn when we appeared to collapse like a pack of cards, after winning at Sheffield United a year ago to this weekend, we then went 8 Premier League games without a win, but more worryingly 6 were defeats and only 2 draws.
Things were so bad that we could only beat Portsmouth by four goals, a result that by their standards was celebrated as if they had won the cup and a low point for most Saints fans in the season.
When we look back at that period of play and what the table would have looked like if we had just hit relegation form of a point per game average during that spell, then it offers us hope for the future.
My worry though is that what truly cost us was individual errors and the biggest culprits are still likely to play, Ralph can coach in a team spirit and how he wants to play, but he cannot give a leopard new spots and I fear that the errors will continue as before, I hope I am proved wrong, but I have been saying the same thing for 3 1/2 years and it hasn't changed yet.
But there is plenty of cause for optimism and we just need Saints to continue where they left off and get three points and get us off to a good start for one.
Photo: Action Images
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