The FourFourTwo Preview: Southampton vs Stoke
Road-weary Potters try to slip whoopee cushion onto Saints seat at top table.
The gulf between ninth-placed Southampton (and those above them) and the 11 sides below them is so stark that the Premier League currently feels like two mini-tables: the Europe-fancying toffs feasting on a cosmopolitan buffet on one hand, while the have-nots beneath stab each other in the eye for the privilege of eating half a packet of Quavers they found in a skip.
- Fulham 0-3 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 2–2 Arsenal (Prem)
- So'ton 2–0 Yeovil (FAC)
- S'land 2–2 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 1–0 WBA (Prem)
- Stoke 2-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- S'land 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Chelsea 1–0 Stoke (FAC)
- Palace 1–0 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 3–5 Liverpool (Prem)
Saints are clinging on to the leading pack, and with a sturdy home record (five wins, four draws, three losses), it’s difficult to foresee a Stoke side who seem to lose their confidence away from the Britannia Stadium’s 12th man getting much out of this contest - they’ve won just one on the road all term.
The Potters' victory over Manchester United brought an end to a hideous run of results in which they’d lost five out of six, and the fifth-worst goal difference in the table suggests they are perhaps lucky to be in 11th place.
Stoke have shipped 25 goals away from home, while only the top five and Swansea have scored more on their own patch than the Saints.
Could the transfer window see much shift in the two sides' fortunes? Saints' biggest result in January was continuity: tabloid gossipers mongered that Rickie Lambert would leave; others saw the house of cards chairman Nicolas Cortese had built falling and Maurico Pochettino tangoing away, but he didn’t. A dearth of transfer window ‘ins’ was more than made up for by the outs that didn’t materialise.
Mark Hughes, meanwhile, has snapped up Stephen Ireland and Man City prospect John Guidetti, neither of whom can be seen as saviours at this point. Stoke’s key failing this year has been beating the sides around them in the relegation mire; the fact that they’ve actually performed better against the more talented outfits may be a crumb of comfort going into this one for Hughes.
Both squads are relatively niggle-free for this time in the season. Calum Chambers, Gaston Ramirez and Dejan Lovren are still being poked and prodded by the Saints' medical team; while with Andy Wilkinson likely fit again for the Potters, Robert Huth and Matty Etherington are left alone playing ping-pong in the Stoke physio room (we fancy Huth has a colossal forehand).
Player to watch: Charlie Adam (Stoke)
Fresh from spanking a deflected effort and a David Moyes-endorsed “worldie”against Man United, Adam moves above Peter Crouch as the Potters’ top scorer for the season, with eight goals. His corners may not quite be worth £10 million alone, as Sir Alex Ferguson once bizarrely mooted, but that dead-ball accuracy from set-pieces, twinned with an ability to larrup efforts home from outside the area, make Adam Stoke’s fulcrum.
Against United he had 4 shots – all on target – and completed 3 take-ons from 7, as well as recovering the ball 8 times and winning 4 tackles out of 5. If they can grab something here, the busy Scot is likely to be involved.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Stoke 1-1 So'ton (Prem, Nov 13)
- So'ton 1-1 Stoke (Prem, May 13)
- Stoke 3-3 So'ton (Prem, Dec 12)
- Stoke 3-2 So'ton (Ch’ship, Feb 08)
- So'ton 3-2 Stoke (Ch’ship, Aug 07)
Pochettino has said “mucho gusto, Marcos!” to Hughes on just one previous occasion as gaffer, back in November when Asmir Begovic lumped the ultimate route one goal past Artur Boruc 13 seconds into their clash at the Britannia, only for Jay Rodriguez to square matters just before half-time for a 1-1 draw. The Argentine loves a positive, attacking 4-2-3-1, while the Welshman who once graced the Nou Camp is also trying to gradually evolve Stoke’s modus operandi into something more pleasing. Soon, perhaps, they will reach a compromise somewhere between hoofball and tika-taka, but it probably won’t be this weekend.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- The 3 meetings between these teams since the start of last season have all finished level.
- Stoke have the worst away record in the league this season and have lost 8 of their last 10 away matches.
- Stoke have scored just 1 goal in their last 6 away games.
- Stoke are winless in their 11 trips to middle-third teams since the start of last season, although they have managed to get 6 draws.
- There have been fewer than 3 goals in 13 of Southampton’s last 15 home games against bottom-half teams.
- 8 of Southampton’s 9 wins this season have come to nil.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Stoke road woes to continue. 2-0 home win.