Decemeber 8, 19:45 BST
St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
The battle for third and fourth place heats up as Southampton host Manchester United on Monday evening in the Premier League. The Saints have been struggling to keep pace with the front runners after a blistering start to the season, whereas the Red Devils have all the momentum on their side after four consecutive wins.
The match will also be a reunion of sorts for managers Ronaldo Koeman and Louis Van Gaal. The pair worked together at Barcelona and despite the eventual fall-out between them at Ajax, it will be interesting to see them go head-to-head in such a crucial match.
Southampton have picked up a solitary point from their last three matches, and after hitting the heady heights of second placed, the Saints are slowly slipping back. United on the other hand consolidated their grasp on fourth place with a 2-1 win over Stoke in their last encounter.
Team News and Tactics
The midweek loss at the Emirates dealt manager Koeman with further injury blows as Toby Alderweireld, Jack Cork and Dusan Tadic all picked up knocks. Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin could be in line for a return from the thigh injury that ruled him out of Wednesday’s defeat against Arsenal. James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez remain long-term casualties.
The Saints will be hoping Italian striker Graziano Pelle finds his early season form that saw him net 6 goals in 9 games. The Italian hasn’t scored since the 3-2 win over Stoke City, and the Saints have only found the net four times in the five EPL matches since.
Probable Line-up: Forster (GK), Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Cork, Wanyama, Davis, Long, Tadic, Pelle
Former Southampton player Luke Shaw has not recovered from his ankle injury, so he will sit the match out. Defenders Rafael and Phil Jones are also expected to miss the bus, along with Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind. Skipper Wayne Rooney could be in line to return to the side after picking up a knock in the win over Hull City, one that ruled him out of the Stoke City match.
It will be interesting to see if Van Gaal continues his three-at-the-back experiment against Southampton. With both managers knowing each other all too well due to their time at Barcelona and Ajax, perhaps Van Gaal will look to spring a surprise or two. Young striker James Wilson started against Stoke, but fit-again Radamel Falcao could start in his place against Southampton.
Probable Line-up: De Gea (GK), Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Young, Carrick, Fellaini, Herrera, Van Persie, Mata, Rooney
Southampton have scored the first goal in 4 of their last 5 Premier League meetings with United but lost 3 and won 0 of those 4 matches.
Robin van Persie has scored 5 goals in 6 Premier League games against Southampton.
Nathaniel Clyne has made more tackles than any other Premier League player this season (63).
The Saints are on a downward slide and with injuries to key players, it is hard to see them getting a result against a resurgent Manchester United looking for its fifth win on the trot in the Premier League. The visitors have been playing good football and getting the results that fans are used to, and while Southampton will surely give them a fight, it is United’s game to lose considering the circumstances.
Predicted Score: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United