Having finally ended a three-match losing run by defeating Crystal Palace, Southampton will be looking to cement their top half place with a triumph over sorry Norwich. The Canaries may sit four points above the relegation zone, but they are struggling for form and clearly face a tricky tie at St Mary’s.
Back in business
Club chiefs have every reason to be delighted with the outcome of the current season, with Southampton on course for the first top half finish since 2003 and no less than four squad members enjoying international debuts. However, it appears that the Saints should have done better in their Premier League campaign, having suffered too many unexpected slip-ups. Their recent poor run of results saw Southampton crash out of the FA Cup as well as lose league matches against West Ham and Liverpool, but Mauricio Pochettino’s team did manage to return to the right track. The Saints did not produce the best of performances away to Crystal Palace, but they enjoyed a hard-fought win that will do wonders for the players’ confidence. And with some tough games coming up, Southampton will want to defeat sorry Norwich at St Mary’s, with their England internationals expected to step up the plate. The back line has shown improvement with the return of Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne, while the team never really had problems creating chances and converting them.
Jack Cork, Kelvin Davies and Jos Hooiveld are likely to miss out, but there are no fresh worries for Mauricio Pochettino.
In precarious position
With their goalscoring record second only to Crystal Palace, it is perfectly clear what has been the problem for Norwich this term, although 44 conceded goals so far are another major cause for concern. The Canaries have failed in their attempt to attract several high-profile attackers in the summer, but having signed Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Garry Hooper, Nathan Redmond and Johan Elmander, nobody could foresee so many problems up front. And while the three strikers have to take the blame for scoring mere six goals between them, the absence of creative players in midfield was also one of the reasons for the poor scoring record. That is why it was even more surprising to see team’s main creative outlet Wes Hoolahan only used sparingly this season, and this is likely to get back to haunt boss Chris Hughton. While showing some improvement at their Carrow Road, Norwich have been utterly disappointing on the travels, losing last five away matches despite mostly facing bottom table sides during that period. And with Southampton next, the Canaries don’t look like they can end the barren run.
Problems continue to mount for Chris Hughton, with important defender Michael Turner a major doubt and Elliott Bennett, Leroy Fer and Jonas Gutierrez ruled out.
Southampton did well to return to winning ways against Crystal Palace and with some important players back to the side, they have got to be considered favourites against struggling Norwich. Chances are Leroy Fer and possibly Michael Turner will be sorely missed for the Canaries, who look destined for the sixth straight defeat on the road.
Top pick: Home win 1.62 (5/8) @ bet365
Alternative pick 1: Southampton/Southampton 2.50 (3/2) @ BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Southampton to win to nil 2.62 (13/8) @ SkyBet