Stubborn Stoke could put a spoke in the Saints’ European ambitions.
So how do you set about nullifying a team that’s scored 14 goals in its last three home games?
That’s the dilemma confronting Mark Hughes as he prepares to take his Stoke City side to the south coast to face in-form Southampton.
To be fair, the Potters arrive off the back of a victory themselves, 2-1 against Swansea, and did pull off a surprise win at Manchester City last month. But their best form overall has come at the Britannia.
They lost at Sunderland two weeks ago and, by now, everyone knows what the Saints did to the Wearsiders seven days ago. Taking that as a form line suggests City could be leaving St Mary’s with their collective tails between their legs, another it may be asking a lot of Ronald Koeman’s side to score another eight goals.
The Dutchman has added to an already decent squad since his arrival at Southampton and the Saints looks genuine contenders for a European spot next year if they avoid injuries.
Belgian World Cup defender Tony Alderweireld has helped shore up the defence and Nathaniel Clyne has forced his way into the England squad.
Graziano Pelle has also been grabbing plenty of headlines. The Italian made a scoring debut for his country earlier this month and has netted seven times in eight outings for Southampton since his summer move from Feyenoord.
Stoke will start this game sitting just inside the top half of the table but a lack of goals continues to hamper their progress.
Outside of the bottom four, only Aston Villa have scored fewer though City’s defensive record suggests they won’t role over quite as easily as Sunderland – only the top two, Chelsea and Manchester City, have conceded fewer than Asmir Begovic.
Peter Crouch, of course, returns to another of his former clubs and is always a threat while pundits will be keeping a close eye on Victor Moses following last week’s controversy.
Southampton will be fancied to rack up another home win at 6/10 but this could be a bit closer than expected. Stoke haven’t lost to the Saints in five meetings over seven years.
Interestingly, the last four matches between the teams have ended in score draws. A draw this time is a tempting 11/4 with a 2-2 correct score on offer at 15/1.
The match kicks off at 3.00pm on Saturday, October 25th at St Mary’s.