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Opposition Preview - Southampton (Home)
Written by ad_wilkin on Sunday, 31st Mar 2024 20:06

In a season in which Town have broken so many records for a newly-promoted side, they continue to fight tooth and nail for promotion against the three recently-relegated, formerly established Premier League teams.

Against the rest of the top four, Town have picked up five points from five games. Leeds lead the way with 12 points with Southampton left to play on the last day of the season.

Leicester also sit on five alongside Town with Southampton also still to come and the Saints themselves have a solitary three from a win against Leeds, but have all of the top three to play a second time round, starting with their visit to Portman Road.

A 22-game unbeaten run for the Saints was finally ended by Bristol City in February which turned into three defeats in four and dropped them down to fourth.

They have then had two high-scoring wins, whilst still looking vulnerable at the back, beating Birmingham 4-3 and Sunderland 4-2 followed by a 1-1 draw where they conceded a last-minute equaliser against Middlesbrough on Friday.

Last Game (Southampton 0 – 1 Ipswich)

In a very even game at St Mary’s, Town sat deep and pressed when needed. That press paid off with Omari Hutchinson winning the ball and netting in the 30th minute as Town then defended Southampton pressure stoutly whilst also managing to launch the odd counter down the other end.

They managed 41% possession to Southampton’s 59% and 11 shots to Southampton’s 13.

Southampton started on the front foot. Adam Armstrong finding a bit of space on the edge of the box and curling a shot into the side netting in an early sighter on Town’s goal before the Blues thought they’d bundled in an early goal from a corner just a couple of minutes later. However, it was harshly disallowed, potentially for Luke Woolfenden’s involvement in blocking off keeper Gavin Bazunu.

Kyle Walker-Peters showed the first signs of his class in the 16th minute, sliding in Che Adams but Cameron Burgess was quick to close him down and once again a Southampton shot went into the side netting.

Walker-Peters was then creating again, lifting a ball into the box from the edge of the area which was glanced just wide by Shea Charles.

On 28 minutes Town replicated that pattern of play down the other end with Wes Burns swinging in a cross for deep which Brandon Williams met and headed over the bar.

A minute later, Town made the breakthrough. Charles dwelt on the ball for way too long which allowed Hutchinson to slide in and steal it. With Town pressing in pairs, it fell kindly to Conor Chaplin who knocked it back ahead of the youngster, who then had to really stretch to hook a left-footed effort towards goal. It beat Bazunu, bounced of the inside of the right hand post and spun into the net to give Town the lead.

Town’s press then caused Southampton problems again. This time Jack Taylor robbed Joe Aribo with Chaplin the man picking up the pieces once again. He took a touch and attempted an audacious dinked chip over Bazunu, who was well beaten but unfortunately it bounced back off the bar and George Hirst was unable to connect properly with the follow-up.

On 39 minutes, Hutchinson, whose dribbling ability was really starting to cause Southampton problems, found Burns on the right wing. Burns feinted and got inside the box before attempting a trivela finish which was nowhere near as successful as his effort against Coventry later in the season and dribbled harmlessly wide.

In the second half, Southampton brought more threat. Walker-Peters was again involved with a lovely run into the middle of the pitch and an excellent threaded through ball that put Che Adams in on goal. The number nine was denied by an excellent save from Vaclav Hladky.

Town then tested Bazunu again with a Chaplin shot from range before Massimo Luongo tried to emulate Town’s number ten but instead blasted skywards.

Another golden chance came and went for Southampton when Kamaldeen Sulemana played a lovely cutback to Armstrong, who with a slightly better touch would surely have found the net. As it was, he was encircled by three Town defenders and forced into a wide angle which allowed Hladky to save comfortably.

Another weak Chaplin effort was saved by Bazunu before Armstrong had another great chance getting in down the side of the Town defence. He opted to chop back rather than test Hladky and the ball ran away from him and Town were able to clear their lines after a Smallbone shot was blocked away.

A Ryan Manning shot from range that was easily beaten away on 77 minutes was the last time Southampton threatened Town’s goal with the visitors seeing out the game from then on.

What’s Changed?

A Premier League-quality squad has been strengthened in January with another couple of top flight-standard loans, both from Bournemouth.

Joe Rothwell comes to add bite and goals into midfield with two doubles so far, against Huddersfield and Sunderland, putting his total up to four in only two starts. The double against Sunderland came from the bench as he put in a stunning sub performance with those two goals and four key passes in just over 17 minutes on the pitch.

Those goals already take him past his season goal tallies for all of his previous Championship seasons with Blackburn, and with Southampton’s hectic schedule coming up he’ll be hoping for more starts to show what he can do.

The other January loan signing was that of Welshman David Brooks, who certainly isn’t a bad player to add to your squad. The pacy winger has nine Premier League goals to his name in 58 appearances and really hit form for Bournemouth before receiving a cancer diagnosis that kept him out of action for 18 months.

Having been given the all clear, the Wales international will be hoping that this loan spell will help him find the same form and fitness.

Like Rothwell, he’s made a pretty good start to his loan spell with three assists and two goals in eight appearances (four starts) and gives Southampton a wing threat that they didn’t quite have previously.

Key Players

Kyle Walker-Peters

The Premier League-quality right-back has been injured for a period of February and March but is working his way back to full fitness and came back into the side in the last match against Middlesbrough.

In Russell Martin’s possession-based football he not only provides excellent passing ability but his dribbling skills allow him to move the team forward up the pitch.

He’s one of Southampton’s key outlets for gaining ground with 7.26 progressive passes and 5.85 progressive carries per game. He also draws a number of fouls and such is the way that Southampton suffocate teams with possession he averages 3.38 touches in the opposition penalty area.

Despite that, the one area where he could improve is his goal contribution numbers with only two goals and two assists so far this season. If he does come back and start this one it could be a fascinating battle with Leif Davis for the first time this season as Davis missed the reverse fixture through injury.

Adam Armstrong

Armstrong is the top goal contributor (goals and assists) in the league on 29, four ahead of Morgan Whittaker in second place. Those are split across 18 goals and 11 assists, which is an impressive record for the versatile forward.

He’s a different type of striker to those employed by the majority of the league and at 5ft 6in tall is more of a Chaplin build than a big target man, but he’s very much suited to Southampton’s possession-based football and his versatility means that he can fulfil many roles in this Saint’s side and is given a largely free role

He has played as the central striker, in one of the two number eight roles that Southampton operated with and also in a more advanced left sided ten role. This often occurs when Adams is chosen to lead the line, like in the recent game against Sunderland.

All of this means that it’s hard to pick him up as Southampton have the squad depth change things up tactically at any point and get Armstrong into the best position to cause the most problems.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis

Harwood-Bellis was only making his second Southampton appearance the first time these sides met and was playing alongside an inexperienced and out of position Charles.

A lot has changed since then and Harwood-Bellis is now a mainstay of the side. He’s incredibly comfortable on the ball and has a pass accuracy of 93% having made more than 2,000 passes so far this season.

His defensive metrics are quite low but it’s hard to judge those given just how much of the ball Southampton have (their average possession is 66.8%).

He has also contributed two goals and two assists and is now regularly featuring for the England U21s at international level, captaining the side in the most recent international break to 5-1 and 7-0 wins over Azerbaijan and Luxembourg respectively, so he’s not shy of composure and definitely has a huge career ahead of him.

Flynn Downes

The former Ipswich man is the glue in the Southampton midfield. Southampton’s three losses in February came without him in the side. The last game they lost with him in the side was to Middlesbrough back in September.

His ability to win tackles and provide that extra bit of cover to the Saints' backline is crucial for them. Without that they lose a lot of their structure and composure both on and off the ball.

He’s sure to get a warm reception at Portman Road and him being fully fit for this one is a massive boost for Southampton.

View From the Opposition

Ahead of this one I caught up with Saints blogger Charlie Mealings from to talk all things title race, the tactical battle for this game, Russell Martin and what happens if Saints don’t go up.

On Friday's results.

AW: It was stressful, I didn't realise we scored so early on, but it felt like we were under siege for most of the second half. But the result at this stage of the season is the most important thing. So I’ll take a scrappy 1-0 away win any day.

CM: I really feel that yesterday was probably the most frustrating game I've seen all season for the same reasons. We were fairly dominant, but very profligate. And it just so it was so, so obvious, so predictable that we were going to concede in the 90th minute, but there we go.

AW: I don't know how many players Southampton had away at the international period as well, but we had a few and the tiredness looked to kind of catch up with them towards the right the last 30 minutes as well.

CM: We've not had many people away, I think we lost Joe Aribo to AFCON for most of January and that was a shame but recently not many of them have been away and they're all probably quite well rested.

On Saints' chances of making the top two.

CM: I think yesterday was a real hammer blow, just because we come into this run now of 10 games thinking that it's not impossible, but we do really have to be perfect.

It's not like we can't drop a single point, but it would certainly be difficult to see us getting the autos if we dropped more than seven, I'd say. So to drop two in our first games that run is very difficult.

Obviously, the way results have gone it's maybe not the end of the world because Leeds and Leicester also dropped points. But yes, I think so. Psychologically, probably a bit damaging.

Not to have those points will obviously hurt us eventually, but maybe, maybe it's not entirely off. I think one thing that's interesting from a Saints' point of view is the way the table's shaping up is now a bit better for us.

When Leicester had a healthy lead but probably weren't in the best form, it kind of felt like, well, we can't really catch Leicester because they're too far ahead and we're not going to catch, say, Leeds because they're just playing really great football right now.

I just backed them not to fall off, but now Leicester have fallen off completely, more than anyone expected. So actually, if we want to get ahead of anyone, the first team we need to get ahead of is Leicester and because their form is quite bad, I'd rather chase Leicester than I would Ipswich right now.

AW: I think momentum's a big thing as well, especially coming into this part of the season and I don't know what it is about Leicester, but I think of the other three, they're probably the weakest side that I've seen in matches against Ipswich anyway.

We got two draws against them. It was just that they controlled the ball quite well. They've got obviously quality individuals, but again, the mentality wasn't quite there. They sit back when they go one up. They seem to sit quite deep and invite pressure on.

We got both of our equalisers that way and then ahead of this, I think Leeds are definitely at a different level because, if you look at their top four record, Southampton are the only one of that group to have beaten them so far.

On Southampton's style of play

CM: I think the ability just to defend the one-nil lead is probably something that Leicester and Southampton share. We don't sit deep and invite pressure, but the way we're committed to inviting the press onto us, even though we're quite good at beating the press, it does make it quite difficult.

Yesterday was a really great example of how we're defending quite well and doing quite a good job of beating the press, but when you get into the 70th minute and you’re just allowing people to press you all the time and insisting on trying to make dangerous plays up the pitch, rather than just playing keep ball, it eventually becomes expensive.

AW: A bit of a bit of game management. I think that's what Ipswich have been really good at this season. I think the only tactical mistake was against Leeds where if you try and play against Leeds and you push men high up, they're so effective on the counter-attack and they just demolished us.

It's about being smart in the 60th, 70th minute kind of areas and then I guess breaking teams down as well when you've just got that possession-based football. If teams do catch you out on the press and get a goal lead and then just sit in two banks of four, that’s a situation where I know we found it tough last year in League One a lot.

It becomes a frustrating game of a lot of possession, but not that many chances just because they're so deep and so hard to break down and get back into the game.

On Ipswich’s style of play.

AW: It very much depends game by game, we like to have the ball and be in possession where we can. Our numbers probably won't be as high as teams like Southampton and Leicester, who I think are up the top. I think Ipswich are probably like fifth or sixth.

In possession, we'll keep the ball but we'd like to transition quickly and it's all patterns of play. So, rather than just keeping the ball and knocking about left and right, we'll pass it, but then try and open up space for a couple of things like either getting the right winger, which was Wes Burns before he got injured, down the right to either run in behind or get the cutback.

Or get it to Leif Davis, who as a left-back bombs on incredibly far and overloads the left. We essentially end up with an overload, we’ve got the three at the back, the two in the midfield, who pivot. One will drop deep and receive the ball off the defenders and the other one will go forward. Then, because Leif Davis gets so far ahead, you have five players up the pitch, the two 10s, the right winger, Leif Davis, playing as the left winger and the striker up there.

CM: I’ve watch a little bit of you play, i think it was the 3-2 Bristol City, and it seemed very focused on these sweeping moves going from left to right quite quickly. And just stretching the pitch both vertically and horizontally at the same time.

AW: Yeah, pretty much. We keep the width, but then hit teams on the counter quite well as well. Last season we scored an incredible counter-attacking goal where we went from back to front in three or four touches.

This is why I'm quite interested because the away game, this was before Southampton got into that long unbeaten run, but we pressed, we definitely kept two banks of four and pressed kind of medium high up the pitch.

Obviously, we got the goal from Omari Hutchinson intercepting a Shea Charles pass. I'm not sure why Russell decided to play him at centre-half for that game. That was a bit of a confusing one. But anyway, we've done that away a few times and Friday was probably another example of that.

Towards the end of the game where we just kind of sat back and defended and then tried to hit teams on the counter, but that is why I'm interested to see what happens at Portman Road. Because we've had not many 1-0s there, i don’t think any actually. There's only been one 0-0 and that was over the Christmas period when we had about six or seven players out injured and sick . So it'll be interesting to see what McKenna goes with, whether he will be as attacking as against other teams or whether the tactics might change slightly.

CM: So two things to say. Firstly, what we're talking about earlier about how you attack. I think stretching the pitch horizontally and vertically, moving quite quickly on transition. I think that could be quite fruitful against us. I do worry about the ability of our full-backs to deal with that kind of movement.

I think we'd much rather play a team who want to dribble through the centre where it can get congested. A lot of teams have had quite a lot of joy with big switches out to the right and left, where our full-backs have vacated. I don't know if that's how you play, but like I can see that being a problem for Southampton.

I don't know how you'll set up and I think it's an interesting one because the team that you played at the start of the season at St Mary's was a very different team and you kind of did what most people are doing against the time, which is sitting deep and waiting for us to make a mistake. And that was actually very fruitful for people at the time.

So when we came out and Russell Martin unveiled the new Saints at the start of the season, it was very beautiful and fluid and dynamic, but obviously quite broken. They were just good at passing round at the back and first of all we did great but conceded loads of goals and essentially Sunderland just kind of found us out and we lost 5-0 and then we lost to Ipswich and to Leicester.

We've fixed that up now. But that was the template for a long time. That the best way to play Saints is you just sit and they're really good, but if you can resist them for 60 minutes, 70 minutes, there will come a period in the game where they make a mistake or they invite pressure on themselves for 15 minutes, and if you can exploit them in that 15 minutes, maybe you nick a point off them, and that's how most people played for the majority of the season.

That's, in my view, why we went on a 25-game unbeaten streak. Teams could take the odd point off us and it was just about fruitful to try and do that. But no one really came and tried to give us those problems.Try to press as high and make things difficult for us to play our game.

And then Huddersfield were the team that decided actually, no, they're not invincible. You can press Saints, it's not something that can't be done. They were really successful and we conceded two goals in the first half an hour, having not lost a game for like three months or something.

It's since then teams have been like, 'Oh, you can actually press Southampton'. It's a viable strategy that you could run with. So for a lot of teams, the template now has changed from being sit and wait for somebody to make a mistake and instead to press in pairs with four high forwards up the pitch pressing basically three or four and press them in pairs and try and even if you can't force our backline to make a mistake, you can stop us playing vertically up the pitch.

And that's been the template and that's still how teams are playing. Sometimes it's fruitful, sometimes it's not. That doesn't really seem to be Ipswich’s game. I don't know how Kieran McKenna will set up to deal with that.

AW: It's something we'll potentially do more at Portman Road. So what we'll try and do is we'll move the striker to cover the angle between the goalkeeper and one centre-half. Force it out to whoever he considers to be the weakest centre-half on the ball, which I'm guessing will be either [Jack] Stephens or [Jan] Bednarek in this case because Harwood Bellis seems to be most comfortable with his feet.

CM: I don't think Stephens will play next week. It's difficult because Russell Martin really likes him, but he's the weakest of our three centre-backs

The way he moves out into midfield, gives us something a bit different, but Harwood-Bellis and Bednarek are definitely the fans' favourite centre backs and the ones that make us most secure. Because Stephens played this week, I think he'll probably be dropped for Monday, but I don't know.

AW: What that means is you’ve got the right winger on the left-back and then the two 10s will go after the other centre-back. Then usually, if they play out wide, Leif Davis will come up and press quite high.

Most of the goals that we've conceded at Portman Road have been similar to what you mentioned with Southampton. When Leif gets high, our right-back doesn't come quite as high as Southampton because Southampton both full-backs get quite far into the opposition half.

Our right-back will tuck in a lot more. Teams get in behind not necessarily down Leif’s side, but when teams switch the ball quickly to the other side. When he's high our other three defenders will shift across. Our left centre-half will end up playing left back, our right centre-half will end up in the middle and then the right-back will come across and then it's the switch to the other side that causes the damage. The winger on that side either gets in down the line or cuts back and creates problems that way.

The benefit of having Leif Davis on the left is somehow he can run for 90 minutes at top pace and nine times out of 10 he'll get back and cover. What it relies on more so is the two midfielders to be alert, cover that switch and force teams down either side. So we have the ability to press, especially at Portman Road if we want to.

CM: Well, it's something we've struggled a little bit with at times during the season. I think it could probably come down to that ability to if we can get balls out of the back line into the midfield by either, passing into the number eight.

I don't think Che Adams will play, but if he does, he will come into the middle and pick up those balls. If we can pick up those balls successfully and switch them out to the flanks and make nice transitions through the middle, then I think we'll have a really good chance against you.

But if your holding midfielders and your centre-backs, put too much pressure on the midfield and they can't make those plays come off. Then things could get really horrible for us.

On the importance of Flynn Downes.


It's not an entirely defensive role he plays. He's good at as part of the transition as well. It's often when we're trying to play out of our backline, we play a forward pass up the pitch into the nine, who's dropped deep or one of the number eight’s and it's often Flynn Downes, who then picks up the next path facing the opponents' goal and carries it up the pitch as well.

So, he's good in the transition as well. But yes, the most important thing he does for us is those covering runs when we are camped in your half, but then we lose possession and then you start to break.

He will just track back through the centre and just shepherd your attack or your attacking players out to the wings with just enough time for everyone to get back into position. He did that brilliantly yesterday.

It is not a coincidence that when Flynn Downes has been out, that's when we've had our bad games and we've dropped points and when he's come back, we've been great again. I still think it's also about what I was talking about earlier, about how teams have tried to play against us just happened to coincide with times that Downes has been out.

But he's a really important player for us. He was, in my view, the best player we had in the pitch yesterday.

On Ryan Manning missing the last game.

CM: I think he was just being rested. Your right wing could have a lot of joy against him for the reasons I described earlier, but Martin likes him. Martin has this whole thing, it's all about courage, basically. He would never criticise you for making a mistake of doing something wrong. But if you're not brave on the ball, if you're not brave without the ball, then he won't have that.

Ryan Manning, probably more than anyone else, is willing to just do things to make things happen. Sometimes at great cost to the team, but he lives Martin's philosophy, so he's favoured.

I just think it was about rotation basically. He played [James] Bree. Bree is a good Championship right-back as well. He's solid, but Martin doesn't want solid, he wants brave. So Ryan is the favoured one, but the fans prefer Bree, but it's pretty close.

On Saints attacking options

CM: I think Fraser, Armstrong and Brooks will start up top as a front three. I'm not 100% that Che Adams could play the last game and the coming game but I imagine Fraser and Brooks were rested because they’ll play Monday.

The advantage of Che Adams is we do often need a centre forward with a bit of physical presence, who can drop deep and pick up balls which Adam Armstrong can't do. That seems like a very useful thing that we would have against Ipswich, but my feeling is that Aribo having not started, will play in the eight position and he'll be the one that we try and get balls into because he's also a big and physical, he's our best receiver and progressor of the ball in the centre.

[Will] Smallbone is maybe slightly favoured because his passing and defensive work is so good. Stuart Armstrong is probably one of the only players who doesn't really get dropped under any circumstances.

One of the places I think Southampton are weak compared to the other top four teams is we just don't have dangerous individuals in the same way that Leeds have [Crysencio] Summerville, Leicester have [Stephy] Mavididi, you have Wes Burns.

Southampton are really good football team as a collective. Thirty-two-year-old Stuart Armstrong isn’t quite on the level of some of the other players who you know can scare defenders ultimately but he’s the closest we have to that kind of player.

His passing is good, his dribbling is important for us. He's not the attacking player of my dreams, but he's the most incisive one that we have, so we can't really afford not to play him even though his ball retention can be a little worrying late in games, we can't really afford not to have him on the pitch.

Then there’s Aribo. He’s had a funny old season. He just kind of wasn't really up to speed with Martin's system at the start, so he didn't play much. Then he started coming in and then he was injured for a little bit and was out and then he went to the Africa Cup of Nations.

He's probably more favoured and more useful to Saints than his appearances this season suggest. He's the best of both worlds between Smallbone and Armstrong. He offers a bit of threat and ball carrying ability that you get from Stuart Armstrong, but he's actually physical and doesn't lose the ball like Armstrong does. He's probably the most balanced eight.

AW: Then there's a few young players as well. Who were there when Saints came down. Sulemana, [Sekoou] Mara and [Samuel] Edozie. I feel like they were playing probably more at the start of the season and then the loans that that you've made have strengthened those positions. Although it’s always helpful to have fresh legs and pace off the bench as well.

CM: Yeah, it's it's not a problem position for us. Sulemana is a glorious dribbler, one of the best in the Championship right now, great at beating his man but his final ball is awful. I mean, awful is a strong word but the difference between how good he is at getting into dangerous positions and how good he is at exploiting them is really stark.

It's just a very visible part of his game. Whereas Brooks is a bit more balanced. He can still give full-backs trouble on the wing. He doesn't have Sulemana's pace, raw pace, but he's a bit more incisive and bit better with crosses and cutbacks, just a better sense of what to do with the ball once he's got past someone.

Ryan Fraser, I don't think anyone saw Ryan Fraser becoming the top player in that position, but he has, partly through injuries to Sulemana and Edozie. He has just been fantastic and absolutely demanded to start with the performances he's had.

He is the definition of bringing an experienced player, just plug and play, always knows how to affect a game with his abilities, whereas Sulemana and Edozie just feel like young players who have all these raw abilities but haven't quite figured out the best application of them in game situations yet.

On support for Russell Martin.

CM: I think the trust took a little while to build, especially after we lost four games in September, but I think it's important to remember that this season's been a lot of fun for Saints fans, basically.

We go and watch our team every week expecting to win. It's quite nice that you know, although it's not nice to have a blip, it's kind of nice to get all your bad games out all at once.

He's a brilliant communicator as well. Makes people feel really good about the team. So yeah, support for Martin is high. People are enjoying going to what's a good club. It's a football club playing good football at the moment and that counts for a lot.

The last few years in the Premier League were tough. Obviously it's great to be in the Premier League but they were hard work. I've not seen a lot of great football from Saints in the last four years, so it’s nice.

On what happens if Southampton don’t get promoted this season.

CM: Bad things. I mean, it's not a disaster, but I think we just lose a lot of good players. Che Adams is a weird player and I think he will leave in the summer. It's not like he's a really great player that we’ll miss, but he does provide something that we haven't had for a bit.

He's our most reliable nine and we failed to get him to sign a new contract so he will leave for free in the summer. If we go up and he doesn’t get a better offer and maybe we keep him on. I don't think that's a massive loss, but like we would have to replace him and we won't have any money to replace him.

Harwood-Bellis is one of our best players this season, a really, really wonderful young centre-back. Great, great player for us now, but also a real asset and he is currently on a deal where he's on loan, but it's a £20 million obligation to buy if Southampton get promoted. He'll almost certainly go to a Premier League club next season. If we go up, it will be Southampton if we don’t go up, it will be another Premier League team that would be a big loss.

I think Flynn Downes as well has been so great for us that we'd probably do everything we could to bring him on board from West Ham, regardless of whether or not we go up or not.

Kyle Walker-Peters will definitely leave and he's just so important to us. I'm actually amazed that he's still with us right now.

We've got four kind of functional number eight players. But none of them are perfect. It's always a bit of like rock, paper, scissors to work out which one is appropriate for which game. We don't really have a number eight that just kind of does everything really.

So we will lose a lot of key players and we need to reinvest in attacking players basically. We'll have to do that if we get promoted anyway, to be honest. It's another year with lower parachute payments and without the revenue of the Premier League and that's always hard.

But we have a good manager, we have some really great players on long contracts as well and we play good football. Hopefully the Championship will be less competitive, next season.

On his score prediction

CM: I'll give you one, if you insist. I think it go one of two ways basically. I think we'll go there. I think we'll be up for it. I think if we play our best game and we're able to get balls out of defence. I think we beat you 2-1. I also see a version of this game where you score an early goal and we struggle to make it through the middle of the pitch and we lose 3-0

The Teams

Given the international break and how close together these games are it’s hard to pick the teams. Hladky will continue in goal after a mixed performance against Blackburn, losing the ball to Szmodics but then producing one of the finest reaction saves in that situation I've ever seen.

Flu has also been sweeping the Ipswich camp so that may impact things with Davis struggling towards the latter stages on Friday but the most likely back four sees the return of Cameron Burgess alongside Woolfenden, Tuanzebe and Davis.

In midfield, it could depend on fitness again, both Sam Morsy and Luongo didn’t stop running on Friday with Mass in particular throwing himself into all sorts of tackles.

I’m going for a Morsy and Lewis Travis partnership in there to freshen things up a bit, whilst Travis also provides extra defensive cover.

The forward line gets even trickier, Chaplin has just come back from an injury, Kieffer Moore has run himself into the ground for Wales and on Friday and Hutchinson put in quite a shift against Rovers too.

Before Friday, I did think this could be a good game for Ali Al-Hamadi to start with the space Southampton will leave in behind, but after Friday I'm not so sure. He didn’t look sharp and the adductor injury that caused him to withdraw from Iraq duty may still be causing him problems.

I think it’s more likely that we see Kayden Jackson on the right alongside Chaplin, Nathan Broadhead and Moore from the start.

For Southampton, Bazunu is still their number one so will start in goal. Walker-Peters returned from injury against Middlesbrough and played the whole game, so will slot back in at right-back, with two of Harwood-Bellis, Stephens or Bednarek playing at centre-back.

Harwood-Bellis and Stephens seems like the current preferred pairing but Bednarek’s solidity could give him the edge for this on.

Manning was benched in favour of Bree on Friday but Manning is likely to come back in for this one, unless Martin is particularly worried about Town’s threat on the right hand side.

In midfield Downes will occupy the base with Smallbone and Stuart Armstrong the most common starters in front of him. Aribo is another option and could come in to provide more physicality in that midfield, especially if Adams is rotated out ahead of him.

The front three is even harder to call with so much quality in those areas. Premier League loans Brooks and Fraser, Saints' top scorer Adam Armstrong, young talents Sulemana, Mara and Edozie and top Championship striker Adams.

It was Adams, Armstrong and Sulemana last time out, but with Fraser’s return to fitness, I'm going to predict a front three of Brooks, Armstrong and Fraser for this one.

Action Areas

Town beat Southampton at their place by remaining solid in two banks defensively but pressing the backline and the deep midfield when they received the ball.

It was the press that resulted in the only goal in the game and it’s also the way that Southampton became unstuck after their long unbeaten run.

However, Town at home are a very different proposition this season. That being said, I think Kieran McKenna will use the away game as the blueprint of how to try and beat Southampton yet again with a pacy press whilst trying to play their own game in the spells that they do have the ball.

With Downes screening, Southampton do like to get players forward and play intricate passes between the lines whilst also pushing both full-backs high up the pitch.

Town will need to keep an eye on both number eights as well as the two wingers, which is one of the reasons I can see Travis coming in for this one as he provides more defensive cover there than Luongo.

With Davis likely to be involved in a battle with Walker-Peters, it’s Brooks up against Burgess that gives me the most worries. However, going the other way it’s likely that Broadhead could find some nice pockets of space with the way Southampton are set up.

The other area Town could get joy is with pace against Manning down the left hand side, be it Kayden Jackson or Hutchinson in that position.

I’m really looking forward to this one. Much like Charlie’s prediction, I can see a variety of different outcomes. The first goal is crucial and if Town get that it could end up being a comfortable win, but if Saints score first it could become a lot trickier as they keep the ball so well. I’m going for a 3-1 Town win.

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