If we’re to take Jose Mourinho by his word (stop laughing at the back), then by Grand National weekend the Premier League title race is already down to two horses.
Liverpool got their noses in front at the top of the table with their 4-0 victory at home to Tottenham last weekend, and although favourites Manchester City possess more than enough quality to make up the lengths on their rivals, their games in hand mean that they’ll need to jump a couple of extra fences.
This meeting with a stylish Southampton side who have impressed many this season represents one of the tougher hurdles too, and City don’t want to clip the obstacle before heading into their Becher’s Brook style assignment at Anfield next weekend.
Nerves could be apparent at the Etihad Stadium then, and this clash might well boil down to just how the hosts can hold theirs.
After 13 consecutive home wins in all competitions, City have now lost three of their last seven in front of their own fans; defeats to opposition as diverse as Chelsea, Barcelona and Wigan Athletic.
The 5-0 win over Fulham in their last home match was very much business as usual, but there is no way that Southampton will make things as easy as for them as the soon-to-be relegated Cottagers did, despite the fact that Mauricio Pochettino’s side are doomed to spend the remainder of the season in mid-table.
The rapid improvements of the likes of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw this season perhaps deserves a higher placing in the table, and whilst those three and more of the Saints players will be looking to impress in the remainder of the campaign as World Cup places remain up for grabs, it is surely time to pay tribute to some of the club’s unsung heroes.
The likes of midfielders Jack Cork and Steven Davis and full-back Calum Chambers might not get the same levels of attention as some of their teammates but they have been no less impressive. Davis – a goalscorer home and away against City last season – will be crucial here as the visitors look to make their presence felt in midfield.
The latter of those Davis goals came in a 3-1 win over City in the early days of the Pochettino reign last February, whilst earlier this season the Argentinean boss saw his side hold Manuel Pellegrini’s men to a 1-1 draw on the south coast.
With that in mind, both teams to score here looks a good place to start at 1.75, whilst you can get 3.90 on City winning by exactly one goal.
The over 3.5 goals also appeals at 2.18, whilst with Pochettino’s men looking certain to at least put up a fight on Saturday afternoon, the 1.87 on offer for a Southampton win with a two goal headstart is worth considering too.
Yaya Toure has netted five goals in City’s last five Premier League games, and with Pellegrini confirming that Sergio Aguero will again be absent here the Ivorian will once again be on penalty duty for the hosts (who are 4.75 to score from the spot).
Toure is 6.00 to score the first goal and 2.50 to net at any time during the 90 minutes, with Spanish star David Silva also in good goalscoring form lately and available at 3.85 to score again here.
Jay Rodriguez has netted in half of the last six away league matches in which Southampton have found the net, and the England hopeful is 4.00 to score past his potential summer teammate Joe Hart at any time.
Both teams to score – 1.75
Over 3.5 goals – 2.18