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    Southampton V Stoke: Match Preview


    By Dominic Rust

    Premier League football returns this weekend and the international break could not have come at a more inopportune moment for Southampton.

    The Saints were undefeated in six matches and the team from Hampshire climbed into the Europa League places with a 1-0 win over relegation battlers Sunderland.

    Prior to that Southampton won at Stamford Bridge coming from behind to secure a 3-1 victory against Jose Mourinho’s under-performing side. Credit must go to Ronald Koeman for Southampton’s upturn in form.

    The former Feyenoord boss has seen a lot of players leave St Mary’s but has managed to rebuild the team due to the Hampshire club’s outstanding youth academy as well as utilising the transfer market.

    Prior to the international break, Stoke City beat Chelsea 1-0 at the Potteries as Marko Arnautovic 53rd minute strike heaped more misery on Jose Mourinho.

    Stoke have only lost once on their travels this season and have only conceded five goals in that spell. 

    The Potters were without Shawcross for most of their away games this campaign. Which makes this feat more impressive.

    Republic of Ireland team-mates Shane Long and Jon Walters will be on opposing ends of the pitch on Saturday. However, the pair helped their country qualify for Euro 2016 with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Bosnia.

    The Saints striker Long is determined to get one up on his international tram-mate this week, as he has not played for Southampton since suffering an injury against Germany.

    In the reverse fixture last season, Saints won 1-0 with Sadio Mane scoring his first goal for the club. 

    The Senegalese forward who can play out wide or up front, is one of the nominees for the BBC’S African Footballer of the Year.

    Team News

    Southampton

    Jay Rodriguez requires surgery on his foot so will miss the weekend’s game while Shane Long has recovered from his ankle problem that was a concern for Koeman ahead of the international break.

    Virgil Van Dijk will feature against Stoke despite suffering an ankle injury whilst on duty with Holland.

    Victor Wanyama could return after serving his one match suspension against Sunderland.

    Stoke

    Stoke’s Marc Muniesa is unavailable for this weekend with a hamstring problem whilst Shay Given is recovering from recent knee surgery.

    Captain Ryan Shawcross has returned to the Stoke defence and Mark Hughes side have become resilient in the three games that the 28-year-old has started.

    The former Manchester United defender had been on the treatment table since September.

    Mark Hughes is aware of Southampton’s quality but is confident that his side’s strong away form is a reason to be hopeful ahead of the trip to the South Coast.


    Match Facts

    Southampton

    Southampton have lost one of their last seven meetings against Stoke as the Potters beat this weekend’s hosts 2-1 last season.

    The Saints have not lost at home to Stoke since 1980 and Ronald Koeman has highlighted the attacking trio of Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle. Their attacking strengths are one of the reasons they are currently seventh in the Premier League.

    Stoke

    Stoke have won four of their last six matches

    Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud scored their last goal Stoke conceded away from home on 12 September.

    With both sides having strong defensive records, I think it will be a low scoring game.

    Prediction: 1-1

    Kick: off Saturday 3pm.


    Southampton FC badge by Ingy the Wingy
    Ronald Koeman by Ronnie Macdonald

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    Item Reviewed: Southampton V Stoke: Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Dominic Rust
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