Southampton and Manchester United will go into their St Mary’s clash feeling reasonably pleased after the weekend’s Premier League results, with both sides in a position to leapfrog third-placed West Ham with a win.
We’ve drilled down into the stats to bring you the crucial battles expected on the south coast when Ronald Koeman and Louis van Gaal meet as managers for the third time:
Victor Wanyama v Marouane Fellaini
At 6ft2in and 6ft4in respectively, the prospect of physical pair Wanyama and Fellaini facing off in the middle of the park isn’t for the faint hearted, although they can clearly both play a bit having posted pass completion averages of 87 and 88 per cent in the Premier League this term.
However, if the midfield tussle at St Mary’s becomes an aerial battle, it seems certain that the visitors will be the beneficiaries based on Fellaini’s heading prowess recently, especially with 5ft6in Saints youngster Harrison Reed expected to be involved at some stage, possibly from the off.
Fellaini is priced up at 13/4 to score his third top-flight goal of the campaign, with Wanyama 5/1 for his fourth.
Fraser Forster v David de Gea
United will need their much-lauded shot stopper firing on all cylinders if they are to take all three points from the south coast, particularly against Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic, who have cooked up 15 Premier League goals and assists between them since signing for Saints during the summer.
However, with his side’s midfield looking far superior to the luckless hosts’, who go into the match without injured duo Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork, De Gea’s distribution will be as important.
At the opposite end of the pitch stands emerging England netminder Forster, who has presided over the top flight’s meanest defence so far in 2014/15, so the Red Devils will need to be at their absolute best to land 2/9 odds of breaching the 26-year-old, with Southampton at 11/4 for a clean sheet.
Ronald Koeman v Louis van Gaal
The younger Dutchman has set Southampton up 4-3-3 in 12 of his 14 Premier League fixtures in charge, according to WhoScored.com.
Issues in midfield may prompt a Koeman rethink, but the fact that Reed has been mooted by the boss as a potential candidate to start suggests he’ll stick with the tried and tested formula.
Van Gaal has been much more experimental with his new charges, going 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-3-3 for Unied’s last two fixtures, but both were at home and with Wayne Rooney returning it’s likely the ‘Iron Tulip’ will revert to the more defensive 3-4-1-2 used ahead of the 2-1 win away to Arsenal.
Like at the Emirates, United to win a match in which their captain makes the scoresheet rates a worthy bet at 17/4