Unless you are a Portsmouth fan, you can’t help but feel that there is something refreshing and exciting about Southampton regaining their Premier League status.
A fine club with a good history, the Saints are a welcome addition to the top flight and after a seven-year absence, the south-coast club will be buzzing about their return.
It has been a long road back to the big time for the Saints, who were relegated in 2005 under Harry Redknapp (let’s just emphasise that as it seems to have been airbrushed out of history) and after falling into the third tier amid financial trouble a few years later, the future looked bleak.
But the club hasn’t looked back after replacing Alan Pardew with physio-turned-manager Nigel Adkins and the former Scunthorpe boss has overseen back-to-back promotions with a swashbuckling, vibrant style that has won over the neutrals.
The manner in which their promotion was achieved, as well as the success enjoyed by Norwich and Swansea in their first season in the big league last year, will have the relentlessly positive Adkins confident Southampton can have a good tilt at the Premier League and the way they attacked the Championship with no fear suggests they will go at the top level with the same attitude.
As an aside, with no Premier League side quoted as odds-on for relegation, the battle to avoid the drop is going to be interesting as the league appears as open as it has done for some time.
The ability to score goals regularly has always been crucial at the bottom of the table and Southampton have the edge in that respect. The Saints score goals galore and I’m expecting a few to fly in when they face Ajax at St Mary’s in a glamour friendly on Saturday.
Ajax are 23/20 to claim an away victory, with the home side 2/1 and the draw at 11/5, but it is the goals markets that I will be interested in.
Southampton scored 85 goals in the Championship last season – more than any other side – and only know how to play one way: high tempo, expansive football that is designed to get chances to their clinical finisher Rickie Lambert.
And with the Dutch champions in opposition on Saturday, I see a game full of goals. Frank de Boer’s side are themselves a young, exciting team packed full of rising stars of European football (none more so than Danish whizz-kid Chrstian Eriksen) and during pre-season the goals have flowed for the team from Amsterdam.
Ajax have hit 25 goals in five friendlies so far – their last outing an impressive 4-0 demolition of Celtic – and you can certainly see them finding the net at St. Mary’s.
Similarly, though, Southampton always find the net at home: they scored 49 last year and in what should be an open game, I’m banking on a few goals and will be on the 7/4 that, with pressure off and positivity on display, there are four or more in the match.
Recommended bet: Over 3.5 goals in Southampton v Ajax @ 7/4
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