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City need victory over unpopular Saints

ESPN staff
February 8, 2013
David Silva is our tip to get on the scoresheet against Southampton © Getty Images
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Both sides have had to deal with high-profile departures in recent weeks although only one side is actually sorry about it. Nigel Adkins' sacking after leading Southampton from League One to the Premier League riled the club's fans and erased the position of Saints being many people's second team. If not that, then at least a side which held some sort of affection with football fans at large.

But that is all gone now and Southampton can only start the repair process by playing good football, something City could do with a bit more of. If both teams approach the game with that aim, it will make for a decent contest, even without Mario Balotelli.

Form

Southampton took four points from six in the final two games of Adkins' reign while new man Mauricio Pochettino has only taken two from nine. If the Southampton board were hoping for a short-term improvement simply by changing the manager, their plans have fallen spectacularly flat.

Southampton's last win at home was on December 8 against Reading but they have at least shown resilience and tenacity throughout a change in manager and have ground out four draws in their last six games.

If Saints can add another one-pointer to that record at St Mary's then they will massively damage City's title hopes. The Citizens have drawn their last two games and, given the attacking talent in their squad, a third in a row would be a hammer blow to their title credentials. They are nine points adrift Manchester United anyway, have an FA Cup clash with Leeds on the horizon and host Chelsea at the end of the month.

Team news

Gaston Ramirez's leg forced him to withdraw from international duty for Uruguay in the week but he should recover to take a place among the substitutes. Saints youngsters Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw should also shake off knocks which forced them out of England under-21 action against Sweden in midweek.

After Ivory Coast's 2-1 loss to Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations, Yaya and Kolo Toure are available to Roberto Mancini sooner than expected and midfielder Yaya, at least, should be back in action straight away.

Captain Vincent Kompany is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a calf injury but if he takes the pitch on Saturday, as some reports have suggested, he will not be at his best and surely he will wait for another week.

Head-to-head battles

  • Joe Hart v Artur Boruc

    Fine saves for England aside, Hart needs to out-perform Boruc

  • Samir Nasri v Nathaniel Clyne

    Nasri's reputation needs a lift, schooling top prospect Clyne would do just that

  • Sergio Aguero v Rickie Lambert

    Can a wonder goal from Aguero decide the game this time?

One to watch

Rickie Lambert is one goal away from reaching the 100 mark in a Saints shirt and there would be no better opponents to tick that achievement off against than the champions. It has taken Lambert just three-and-a-half years and 183 league and cup games to score 99, and he is poised to join fellow goal centurions such as Mick Channon, Matt Le Tissier and Martin Chivers.

On top of the number of goals he scores, Lambert has a habit of making his the decider, as witnessed in Southampton's most recent victory, against Aston Villa, when the 30-year-old struck from the penalty spot.

Key battle

If Clyne does make the field he will be crucial to what will have to be a strong rearguard performance from Saints' back four. The 21-year-old made his club debut against City in the first game of the season, which his side lost 3-2.

That day Samir Nasri won the match with an 80th minute strike. While the Frenchman was only a late substitute against Liverpool, Mancini might be tempted to start him and hope his creative instincts can help put the game to bed before half-time. Right-back Clyne will have to be sharp to stop him.

Prediction and bet

A handsome City win is a safe bet, even though the match is at St Mary's. Goals will come, possibly from both sides but with David Silva back in goal-scoring form, punting on him to score anytime is a good bet with odds of 15/2 as either the first or the last goalscorer with bet365.

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