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The FourFourTwo Preview: Southampton vs Sunderland

Billed as…

The battle between two teams who wear red and white stripes, where neither team will wear red and white stripes.

The lowdown…

Saturday’s fixture at St Mary’s is a meeting of two teams with high expectations for the new season. Yet, while Southampton hit the ground running on the opening day with an impressive 1-0 win at West Brom, Sunderland slumped to a  home defeat at the hands of usually travel sick Fulham.

The Black Cats now face a ludicrously tricky run of home games – Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle, Man City, Chelsea and Spurs are the next seven league visitors to the Stadium of Light – so picking up points on the road is a must. They managed it in last season’s trip to St Mary’s thanks to a Steven Fletcher strike, but after a summer of strengthening, Saints look like being a force to be reckoned with in 2013/14.

That’s thanks in part to the arrival of Johnny Depp lookalike and Mick Jagger fanboy Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who became the Hampshire club’s record signing when he secured a £15m move from AS Roma on Sunday evening.

Quite what that means for man-of-the-moment-before-last Rickie Lambert remains to be seen, but it’s certain Mauricio Pochettino has added a new dimension to his ever-improving side.

Last five meetings

Sunderland 1-1 Southampton (Prem, May 13) 

Southampton 0-1 Sunderland (Prem, Dec 12)

Southampton 1-2 Sunderland (C'ship, Apr 07) 

Sunderland 1-1 Southampton (C'ship, Nov 06) 

Sunderland 0-1 Southampton (Prem, Jan 03)

Team news

Southampton have a clean bill of health, and are expected to hand a debut to new boy Osvaldo, assuming they can shoe-horn him into their forward line. The visitors will be without Lee Cattermole (knee), Steven Fletcher (ankle), Wes Brown (knee) and Phil Bardsley (personality).

Key battle

Sunderland flyer Adam Johnson created five chances in last weekend's loss to Fulham - more than any other player on the Stadium of Light pitch. He'll look to bamboozle impressive young Southampton left-back Luke Shaw by cutting inside from the right. Shaw will look to attack with great regularity, which could leaves gaps - or tired legs - for Johnson to exploit.

The managers

Mauricio Pochettino and Paolo Di Canio – two men with differing managerial styles and temperaments, it has to be said - have gone head-to-head just once before. Last season’s meeting at the Stadium of Light ended in a 1-1 draw, when Jason Puncheon took a break from defecating to score a 76th-minute equaliser for the visitors.

Facts and figures

  • Southampton have scored just three goals in their last six Barclays Premier League matches.
  • Sunderland have lost six of their last seven Barclays Premier League matches away from home (W1 L6).
  • The Saints have averaged just 0.74 points per game in the month of August in the Premier League; only Crystal Palace and Swindon Town have lower averages.
  • The last three Premier League meetings between these two sides have seen just four goals scored in total.
  • No English player has scored more Premier League goals than Rickie Lambert since the start of 2012/13 (16).
  • Following his winning goal against West Brom last weekend, Rickie Lambert has now scored 29 out of 29 league penalties he has taken for Southampton.
  • Sunderland have won four of their last six trips to Southampton in league competition (L2).
  • The Black Cats have failed to score in two successive Premier League games. They haven't failed to score in three in a row since April 2012 (four games).
  • There have only been six goals scored in the last four Premier League games involving Southampton (F3 A3).
  • Pablo Osvaldo scored 16 goals in Serie A for Roma last season; only Edinson Cavani (29) and Antonio Di Natale (23) netted more.

FourFourTwo prediction

The good times will continue to roll for Saints. 2-0.

Southampton vs Sunderland LIVE ANALYSIS using online Stats Zone