Manchester City will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they travel to St. Mary’s Stadium to take on Southampton on Sunday evening

The games continue to come thick and fast during the busy festive period, as Gameweek 20 of the Premier League comes to an end on Sunday. One of the most intriguing match-ups on the day will see Southampton and Manchester City lock horns at St. Mary’s Stadium, with both sides hoping to get back to winning ways.

Southampton have shown marked improvement since the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl. While the Saints have lost two of the games the Austrian has overseen, neither defeat has been by a heavy margin, while the 3-2 win over Arsenal provided promising signs.

Manchester City, on the other hand, have gone off the boil, and miserably so, over the last week. The 2-0 loss to Chelsea had already given Liverpool the advantage in the title race, and successive losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester City in the past week has left Pep Guardiola’s men seven points adrift of the Premier League leaders, in need of some inspiration.

The reverse fixture, played last month at the Etihad, had ended in a 6-1 win for Manchester City, with Danny Ings scoring the consolation goal for Southampton. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Southampton

Ralph Hasenhuttl needs to rally his troops after the 2-1 loss to West Ham United. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Ralph Hasenhuttl needs to rally his troops after the 2-1 loss to West Ham United. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Ralph Hasenhuttl does not have many pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations for the visit of Manchester City. On Sunday, the Southampton boss could be without as many as two first-team players in the worst possible scenario.

Irish upstart, Michael Obafemi is a certain absentee, as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury. Ryan Bertrand is likely to miss out as well due to his ongoing battle against back injury. Meanwhile, Mario Lemina is doubtful due to a stomach complaint, although he might be available.

The big news though, is that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is set to return to the starting lineup after serving a one-match ban in midweek loss to West Ham United. The Dane should replace Lemina in the Southampton midfield, taking the responsibility to lead the Saints out on Sunday against Manchester City.

Apart from Hojbjerg, there are unlikely to be any more changes to the side, with Hasenhuttl naming a strong lineup to force a result against the stuttering City side. In addition to the midfield duo of Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu, the onus will once again be on Danny Ings.

The on-loan striker has been in fine form this season, having shrugged off his injuries for good. And, when Manchester City come visiting, the Englishman will hope to score more than just a consolation goal. Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond should provide him company in attack.

At the back, Maya Yoshida will need to marshall the defensive line, which has been all over the place all through the season. In goal, Alex McCarthy will have a lot of responsibility as well, and he will have to keep errors to a bare minimum against a side that can punish him whenever given the slimmest of chances.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): McCarthy; Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard; Valery, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Targett; Redmond, Armstrong; Ings

Southampton

Manchester City

For Pep Guardiola, the issues aren’t just presenting themselves on the field. The Manchester City also has a lot of troubling roster issues, with as many as six first-team players possibly missing the trip to the south coast to take on Southampton on Sunday.

The likes of Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Claudio Bravo (Achilles) are long-term absentees, while Fabian Delph will be serving the first of his three-match ban after being sent off against Leicester. In addition to the trio, Guardiola is sweating over the availability of Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus and Vincent Kompany.

The possible absence of Fernandinho is especially concerning, with Manchester City struggling to contain their opponents in midfield in his absence. With no other holding midfielder at his disposal, Guardiola needs the Brazilian fit and available as soon as possible.

But, considering the crunch game against Liverpool is mere days away, Fernandinho might be saved for next week’s tie, with Ilkay Gundogan likely to start as the deepest midfielder at Southampton. Giving him company in the middle of the park, should the creative maestros Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.

Up ahead in attack, Riyad Mahrez might get a rare start, with Raheem Sterling likely to be dropped, following several poor performances. At the back, Guardiola should reinstate Kyle Walker to the starting lineup, while Oleksandr Zinchenko is likely to replace Delph at left-back.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Gundogan, David Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sane

Manchester City

Betting Odds

Underdog Bets

1. Full Time Result – Southampton or Draw @ 3.40

Key Stats

  • Southampton have won just once in their last 11 Premier League meetings with Manchester City (D2 L8), winning 4-2 in this exact fixture in the 2015-16 campaign.
  • Manchester City have won their last four Premier League games against Southampton by an aggregate score of 12-2. They have never won five in a row against Saints in the Premier League.
  • Manchester City have lost three of their last four Premier League games  (W1) – as many as they had in their previous 70 in the competition (W55 D12).
  • Southampton have dropped 15 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, the most of any top-flight side.
  • Manchester City have lost their last two Premier League games, despite scoring first in both. Only four sides have ever lost three in a row after scoring the first goal in the competition (Blackburn in April 2007, Sunderland in February 2011, Wolves in April 2012 and Leicester in December 2014).

Player to Watch

Kevin De Bruyne

Time to get into the groove. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Time to get into the groove. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

It has been a frustrating season for Manchester City’s Player of the Year for 2017-18, with injuries rendering 2018-19 to be a stop-start season. Now back to full fitness, De Bruyne is just the player that Pep Guardiola needs to bank on in order to arrest his side’s rut, and take the challenge to Liverpool again.

With David Silva also returning from his own injury layoff, it is now upto De Bruyne to rekindle his brilliant partnership with the Spaniard in the middle of the park and restore Manchester City’s status as the Premier League’s most dominant midfield. In effect, the Belgian maestro could use the Southampton game to get in perfect shape and form ahead of the tie against Liverpool.

Prediction

Southampton 1-2 Manchester City

It has started going horribly wrong for Manchester City all of a sudden. Till Chelsea beat them not too long ago, there was a strong belief that Pep Guardiola’s charges would become the first side since fierce local rivals Manchester United to defend their Premier League crown. How things change quickly.

Southampton, on the other hand, are on a resurgent run, the 2-1 midweek loss to West Ham United notwithstanding, and the hosts will make it really difficult for the champions. One thing that is certain though, is that Manchester City will not run riot, as they had at the Etihad last month, even if they win.

But, we do expect Manchester City to get back to winning ways, only after Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men make it a challenge to grab all three points. The Hard Tackle predicts a hard-fought 2-1 win for Guardiola & co.

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