Football

/ Preview

Powered by ESPNfc
  • Southampton v Everton preview

A prickly night for Pochettino

ESPN staff
January 21, 2013
Can Southampton build on their point at Chelsea? © PA Photos
Enlarge

This season ESPN Goals is completely free. It's the first place to see every goal from every Premier League game, all season long

New Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino admits winning over the club's supporters will be one of his biggest challenges as he prepares for his Premier League bow against Everton on Monday.

Pochettino's recruitment appears to have been in the pipeline for some time after he revealed he had been studying the Southampton squad "for several weeks". That will do little to appease the Saints supporters who are angry that Nigel Adkins was sacked despite leading the club to 15th in the Barclays Premier League after back-to-back promotions.

Pochettino's first game in charge will be against Everton and he said via an interpreter: "I really want to convince the fans and hopefully they will take me in as they did the previous manager. It is a great challenge to be here as part of this project and [winning] the kindness of the supporters is one of the biggest challenges that I have.

"I am sure they will be supporting the club for the 90 minutes the game will last. Fans are free to express their feelings. I can't tell them what to feel but I have a lot of respect for how they react. I hope I can convince them with hard work, honesty and that they enjoy the way the club plays and they feel honoured and proud how the team is playing.''

As a player, Pochettino won 20 caps for Argentina and he was the defender whose foul on Michael Owen in the 2002 World Cup game allowed David Beckham to score the winner from the penalty spot. Pochettino managed Espanyol between 2009 and 2012 before he was sacked in November with the Catalan club bottom of La Liga. He left with a win-loss record of 49 wins and 64 defeats from 146 league matches.

"I know the Premiership really well. In Spain we follow it closely. I am a great admirer of English football,'' he said. "I spoke at length with people that know this league such as Jose Mourinho, who is a good friend of mine. He told me the best football in the world is being played here.

"The challenge is to win all the games that are ahead of us. In the background there is a project to grow the club. Very good players have come out of the academy here. We need to keep on reinforcing that structure so that in the long term we can be one of the strongest clubs in England.''

Pochettino must decide whether to bring top scorer Rickie Lambert back into the starting line-up. Lambert came off the bench to head his 10th Premier League goal of the season in Wednesday's 2-2 draw at Chelsea. Everton boss David Moyes does not expect Southampton's players to be unduly affected by the shock managerial change.

The Scot said: "It's a really difficult one to judge because I actually think Southampton have been playing quite well. I'm not quite sure what effect it will have on the players but when you get a new manager you get on with it.

"I don't think players mope around too long about the manager, and I mean that with real respect for Nigel, but I think players just get on with their job. I would expect them to do that and it will be difficult. I don't know what the atmosphere will be like, I would have expected the supporters to have probably been in Nigel's camp because of the work he'd done there.''

Everton will be looking for three points to keep them hot on the heels of the top four. The Toffees were frustrated last weekend when they were held to a goalless draw with Swansea and Moyes wants his side to be more creative when the onus is on them.

Head-to-head battles

  • Luke Shaw v Leighton Baines

    The battle of the left-backs

  • Jason Puncheon v Leon Osman

    Which midfielder will influence the attacking third?

  • Rickie Lambert v Phil Jagielka

    Who will win the aerial duel?

"That's something we need to be a little bit better at,'' he said. "Over the years we've had to do that (sit back) against the better sides and we've had some great results, and teams are now doing that to us. We've found it a little bit difficult when it's happened if we've not got the goal. We kept plugging away [against Swansea] but on the day we just didn't have that bit of something that made the difference.

"We've tried to work on creating more chances, making better runs and passes for people to get in, better crosses, so we're continually trying, but there'll be days when it doesn't happen. I hope we won't have too many of those like last week because we can't afford to be picking up single points, we've got to try to be winning games.''

Form

Southampton have lost one of their last six games, making the removal of Adkins all the more remarkable. They have only won one of those encounters though and will need to respond after some positive results for their relegation rivals over the weekend. Everton are unbeaten in their last five away games in all competitions and can close the gap to fourth-placed Tottenham to a single point.

Team news

Kevin Mirallas is not expected to be risked after two months out with a hamstring injury for Everton. Johnny Heitinga faces a late fitness test, but Darron Gibson is definitely absent. For Southampton, Adam Lallana is the big concern and will need a late test.

One to watch

Nikica Jelavic is becoming a real concern for Everton. The Croatian forward, who arrived with such an impact last season, has scored once in his last 11 Premier League appearances, and none in his last six. David Moyes continues to trust in the striker's all-round work ethic but the Toffees need him to start scoring if they are to finish in the top four.

Key battle

The battle of two full-backs at St Mary's as Leighton Baines, comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, meets Luke Shaw, Southampton's rising star. Arsene Wenger has already confirmed his interest in Shaw, who created Saints' equaliser at Chelsea with a 50-yard burst forward, but will he be outshone by Baines?

Prediction and bet

Southampton are the home side and - regardless of how the fans feel - the players have a new manager to impress. Odds of 3/1 on bet365 look generous.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close