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It’s the South Coast derby that isn’t a derby. It might not be a derby but Southampton are certainly local rivals. We want to beat them and they want to beat us. Simple. We spoke to Southampton fan site The Ugly Inside to get the inside track on what the opposition thinks of today’s game
Q. AFC Bournemouth and Southampton both currently sit in mid-table on 33 points. How would you rate both teams season so far?
Our season has been helter-skelter, we’ve had the highs of winning iconic games at home in the Europa League and then going away the next week to places like Hull and losing in disappointing fashion. Dominating games on possession but not doing anything with it, we were not potent or clinical up front before Christmas and before Gabbiadini had signed. Since the start of 2017, it’s been refreshing to watch our play, the team looks like they are expressing themselves and are now enjoying their football. Puel’s tactics were very rigid and he had made at least 5 or 6 changes every match day but the League Cup final and the Semi’s with Liverpool lifted the entire team and you could see it in their attitude on the pitch. Belief has been restored to the players and for the past 4 matches Puel has selected an unchanged team which is now a testament to the squad as he now knows his strongest team and we can now really push on in the table and realistically reach a top 10 finish.
By all accounts I understand Bournemouth have also been inconsistent and having spoke to another Bournemouth podcast, 2017 so far has not been great but your confidence should be good going in for this game having won two back-to-back games and getting a hard fought point at Old Trafford.
Q. Help Eddie out and tell us how you think Southampton will line-up against AFC Bournemouth?
Fortunately for you Puel’s selection has to be pushed for changes. We saw Gabbiadini come off injured at Tottenham with a suspected groin injury and the likelihood is he is out for 2 weeks. This is also Martin Caceres’ best chance at a debut since signing as historically Yoshida does not play immediately after an international fixture with Japan, but having said that he has never been as important to the team. My predicted line-up would be Forster, Cedric, Stephens, Caceres, Bertrand, Romeu, Davis, Redmond, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Long.
Q. Who will be Southampton’s danger men that we should watch out for on matchday?
It certainly would have been Gabbiadini who has been phenomenal since signing but he’s almost certainly ruled out so you have look beyond that and look at our two England senior debutants Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse. Since the Liverpool semi-final goal Redmond’s confidence has grown and he is getting in to great positions and flourishing under the 4-2-3-1 system which Puel now operates. Redmond will look to stretch the play on the wings and cutting inside to take players on. He is playing with confidence and deservedly nominated for Premier League player of the month with some wonderful goals at Watford. Along side him is his pal James Ward-Prowse, he has grown into this season and he is arguably in the best form of his career to date. He has been important for the team recently setting up goals from set pieces but also contributing with goals from open play which is something he severely lacked in previous seasons. Ward-Prowse has been given the licence to roam all across the attacking midfield three and often puts his foot in the get back and defend when he is needed.
Q. Which AFC Bournemouth players do you think Claude Puel will be targeting in his gameplan?
Puel will need to keep your strikers Josh King and Benik Afobe quiet. Despite us playing some attractive and an exciting brand of football recently and scoring some great goals we’ve certainly been suspect at the back. We’re missing Van Dijk massively, his composure and all round ability at the back and to move the ball forward has been clear to see. We need to keep it tight at the back, stay composed and I hope that Caceres can come in and sure things up. He is a composed and ball playing centre-back who should use his experience from playing across Europe at top clubs to keep a clean sheet which have been far and few between recently.
Q. I recently read a comment that said ‘If we can’t beat them (AFC Bournemouth) by at least three clear goals then it says more about us than them’. How do you see the game ending this time out?
We should be favourites going in to this game and by all accounts we made a good impression of ourselves last time out at Tottenham despite losing 2-1 and certainly impressed in other recent games. However we do not have Gabbiadini for this one who has been our lynch pin scoring 6 in 4 games before the injury. We need to look elsewhere for this game and we could see Long or Rodriguez as his replacement. Personally I’d field Jay Rod hoping for another great performance like he did at Dean Court earlier this season. But I have a feeling Long may start and Claude will look for him to run in behind your defence. It’s certainly going to be a competitive game but there is no easy game in the Prem. I’m going to predict 2-0 home victory.