Premier League champions Manchester City will take a trip to the South Coast to face Southampton in their last league game of the season.
Newly crowned Premier League champions Manchester City will take on relegation battling Southampton in the last game of the season, at the St. Mary’s on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s rampant Manchester City side clinched the league title weeks ago and have been breaking all sorts of records left, right and centre in what has been, without a doubt the greatest year in the club’s history. And they will be looking to topple more milestones in the last game, with the opportunity of being the first ever team to register 100 points in a Premier League campaign staring right at them.
Southampton, on the other hand, find themselves involved in the relegation scramble. Sitting 17th in the table following their midweek 1-0 win over Swansea City, they are three points above the Welsh outfit who occupy the 18th place. A point against the Citizens could secure the Saints’ Premier League status for the next season, although, given their superior goal difference, only a huge defeat, coupled with a big win for Swansea could put them in peril.
Team News and Tactics
The Saints will be without defender Jan Bednarek, who picked up a head injury in the club’s midweek win over Swansea. Captain Steven Davis remains unavailable as he continues to recover from an Achilles tendon problem, while former Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina is a major doubt with a hamstring injury and will undergo a late fitness test.
Mark Hughes is unlikely to make a whole lot of tactical changes going up against his former employers, meaning Southampton are likely to set out in a 3-4-2-1 setup once again. Alex McCarthy, who has impressed heavily in goal recently, should feature from the get go ahead of Fraser Forster. He will be protected by a back three comprising of Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida and Wesley Hoedt.
The ever-present duo of Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand will take up the wing-back slots on the right and the left sides respectively and look to curtail the threat from the visitors’ wingers. In the centre of the park, former Barcelona man Oriol Romeu is expected to team up with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. The two will be tasked with stifling the City midfield axis from getting a hold in the game.
Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond will take up the attacking midfield slots in the right and left channels respectively to try and provide the creative edge and impetus going forward in the final third. And spearheading the attack for the South Coast club will be Englishman Charlie Austin.
Probable Starting XI (3-4-2-1): McCarthy; Stephens, Yoshida, Hoedt; Cedric, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Bertand; Tadic, Redmond; Austin;
There are no fresh injury concerns for Guardiola to contend with heading into the game, with the only major absentee being star striker Sergio Aguero, who has missed close to a month of action with a knee injury. Having rung in quite a number of changes for the midweek game against, the manager is likely to bring in his A-listers for Sunday’s game.
That would mean Ederson Moraes returns in goal for the champions, with Chilean international Claudio Bravo making way. Kyle Walker will also be in for a recall at right-back in place of Danilo, who scored a goal in the midweek encounter, while the fit-again Benjamin Mendy could be set for his first start after his lengthy injury layoff at left-back.
The two centre-back slots are likely to be taken up by Argentine international Nicolas Otamendi, who has enjoyed a brilliant season, alongside former Everton man John Stones.
In the middle of the park, Fernandinho will assume duties as the defensive anchor to shield the back four. Kevin De Bruyne will occupy the second midfield slot and look to end the season with a flourish while the final spot could be handed to young midfielder Phil Foden, who needs to make one more appearance to get a Premier League winners’ medal.
Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have been absolutely unstoppable from the wings for the Citizens and should once again get the nod at the St.Mary’s while Brazilian international Gabriel Jesus will once again be leading the line in the absence of Aguero. Expect the front three to cause all sorts of problems to the Saints’ defence.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Foden; Sterling, Jesus, Sane;
- Southampton have won just one of their last nine Premier League fixtures against Manchester City (D2 L6), winning 4-2 at home in May 2016 thanks largely to a Sadio Mane hat-trick.
- City could also become the first team to record 32 wins in an English top-flight campaign, with their current tally of 31 a joint-record alongside Spurs in 1960-61.
- The Saints have collected eight points in their last four Premier League games (W2 D2), as many as they picked in the previous 12 combined (W1 D5 L6).
- A victory for the Citizens would also see them create a new record for most away wins (16) and points (50) in a Premier League season.
- Manchester City have scored at least 3 goals in their last 3 away matches in the Premier League.
Player to watch
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The 26-year old Belgian international has had a marvellous season for the Citizens and in many ways, has been the chief protagonist of their rampaging success under Guardiola this campaign. De Bruyne, so far, has produced astonishing returns of 12 goals and 19 assists in 49 games across all competitions and has been by far the best midfielder in the Premier League and arguably in Europe as well.
With the season drawing to a close, he will be hoping to sign off on what has been a memorable year with another memorable performance against the Saints on Sunday.
Southampton 1-4 Manchester City
Southampton are on the verge of Premier League safety and need a point from the game to be absolutely sure of their situation. However, given how this City side has been playing, it is extremely hard to imagine a situation wherein the Saints will come away with a point from the game. We, at the Hard Tackle, expect an easy 4-1 win for the Sky Blues, but Southampton, despite the defeat, should stay up in the English top-flight.