The FourFourTwo Preview: Southampton vs Fulham
The game with the misfortune of being up against El Clasico (and You've Been Framed) in Saturday's early-evening ratings battle.
On the face of it, this may not appear one of the weekend’s more enticing fixtures, yet it could prove an interesting clash of managerial approaches.
- Man Utd 1-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Swansea (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Bristol City (LC)
- Liverpool 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Palace 1-4 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Cardiff (Prem)
- Fulham 2-1 Everton (LC)
- Chelsea 2-0 Fulham (Prem)
Southampton are in sterling form, despite dropping two points at Old Trafford that saw them slip down as low as sixth in the table. Fulham, meanwhile, looked a team revitalised in their Monday evening win at Crystal Palace – although Pajtim Kasami’s stunning volley would be enough to gee-up any team (except perhaps, ironically enough, Crystal Palace).
This revival couldn’t have come at a better time for Cottagers manager Martin Jol; it’s not inconceivable the Dutchman could’ve been the one heading to the Job Centre in Ian Holloway’s place had the 4-1 scoreline at Selhurst Park been reversed.
That’s not to say he’s out of the woods just yet, but the victory across town will have given one or two players whose minds were wandering and heads were dropping a much-needed shot in the arm.
Saturday evening’s trip to the south coast is a daunting one, but shouldn’t necessarily be seen as an insurmountable task. Southampton may have the fiercest defence in the Premier League (just three goals conceded in eight games), but they’ve also only scored eight – one fewer than Fulham.
The hosts will be big favourites, but the Londoners have the attacking talent to test them, should things once again click into place.
The most significant absentee could be Fulham defender Brede Hangeland, who, despite not performing to quite the same level as two or three seasons ago, is still key in the Cottagers’ back-line. The Norwegian picked up a back injury during the win at Crystal Palace – ironic, given he probably shouldn’t be picking up anything in his state.
Key battle: Dejan Lovren vs Dimitar Berbatov
It’s perhaps no surprise that Fulham’s improved performance at Palace coincided with an improved performance from the Bulgarian forward. His willingness to come deep for the ball caused problems for Palace all night, and he’ll most likely look to do the same at St Mary’s. Up against him in the Saints defence will be Croatian new-boy Dejan Lovren, who has been in impressive form in the season’s early months.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Fulham 1-1 So'ton (Prem, Dec 12)
- So'ton 2-2 Fulham (Prem, Oct 12)
- So'ton 3-3 Fulham (Prem, Jan 05)
- Fulham 1-0 So'ton (Prem, Sep 04)
- So'ton 0-0 Fulham (Prem, Feb 04)
This will be the first league meeting between Mauricio Pochettino and Martin Jol, two managers with different eyes for detail when it comes to tactical preparations. Pochettinho will have his team well drilled, while Jol will most likely urge his team to express themselves.
Facts and figures
- Southampton have the tightest defence in the Premier League so far in 2013/14; conceding only three goals in their eight games.
- Fulham are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Southampton, although five have ended as a draw.
- Southampton's 15 point tally from their opening eight games is their best return in a top-flight season since 1983/84 (17 points). They ended that season in 2nd place behind Liverpool.
- The Saints have lost only one of their last 10 Premier League matches (W4 D5 L1).
- Fulham will be looking for their third successive Premier League win; something that they haven't achieved in the top-flight since March 2012.
- Only six sides in the history of the Premier League have conceded fewer goals from their opening eight games of a season than the Saints have this term (3).
- In their last game against Crystal Palace, Dimitar Berbatov scored his first Premier League goal of the season; ending a run of six league appearances without a goal for Fulham.
- Southampton have kept three successive clean sheets at St Mary's in the Premier League; the same number that they had kept in their previous 24 games there in the competition.
- There have been just six goals scored in the four Premier League games at St Mary's this season.
- Southampton have netted three goals in the final five minutes of Premier League games this season, more than any other side.
Another tight game featuring Southampton, and, we suspect, a narrow win. 1-0.