Sandwiched between their Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid, Manchester City’s visit to St Mary’s could not be better timed as far as Southampton’s hopes for a top-six finish are concerned.
The Saints are clinging on to the prospect of Europa League qualification through their league position, currently trailing sixth-spot incumbents West Ham United by two points, though the Irons have a game in-hand.
This being the case, winning each of their final fixtures is imperative.
With five victories and three stalemates from their previous eight outings and with their top-four finish far from assured, were it not for their midweek trip to the Bernabeu, the Citizens’ favouritism for this one could not be questioned.
The strength of the solitary extrapolating factor, however, renders backing the visitors a terrible bet, with the Saints poised to record a rare win against the south coast outfit.
Win, Lose or Draw?
Ronald Koeman has lost each of his three meetings with City, while his only La Liga tactical tussle with Manuel Pellegrini ended in a 3-0 defeat too.
In total, the Dutchman’s team have lost four on the spin against the Citizens, but they’ll be lucky if they ever get a better chance to end that run than the one they’ve been presented this weekend.
Looking to book a maiden Champions League final berth in the fixture that follows their south coast sojourn, Pellegrini is likely to field a weakened team, or at least instruct his charges to take it easy at St Mary’s.
Should the Chilean take the course of action several suspect he will, a Southampton win is nailed on.
They’ve beaten six of eight travellers in the league since Boxing Day, losing just once in that period.
Arsenal, West Ham and Liverpool have are among the vanquished in Saints’ hot streak.
For all City’s improved form in recent weeks, their road ledger remains a patchwork of inconsistency. For instance, they followed up a 3-0 routing of Chelsea with a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United in the two trips that preceded this one.
They’ve set about restoring the respectability of their record against their top-ten brethren too with the aforementioned Chelsea win and a 4-0 thumping of Stoke City last weekend.
Prior to this though, they’d lost four on the spin against fellow top-half occupiers.
By contrast, Saints have fared markedly better against such teams, recording 1.31 points-per-game on average, compared to City’s 0.94 and, if the latter’s mind is on Madrid, the divide will stretch further still.
Recommended bet: Southampton to win @ 17/10
Goalfests have been commonplace for both sides of late, with eight over 2.5-goal affairs served up from the duo’s last 12 combined outings.
Just two of their meetings since Saints returned to the top-flight ahead of the 2012/13 edition have seen fewer than three strikes registered too.
City alone have struck three or more on four separate occasions, while the last time they conserved resources ahead of an important Champions League venture, they lost 5-1 so expect goals aplenty here.
Recommended bet: Over 3.5 goals @ 2/1
Who’s going to score?
Having struck four in his last five outings, Senegalese sharpshooter Sadio Mane is savouring a rich vein of form to end the season.
Three of these four strikes have proved to be the final goal of the games they came in, making him a worthy wager to notch last here.
Recommended bet: Mane to score last @ 15/2
There has been a goal scored inside the opening 10 minutes in four of the previous six meetings between these two.
The same is true of half of Saints’ last six, while three have fallen across the Citizens’ previous five.
Recommended bet: Over 0.5 goals between 0 and 15 minutes @ 21/10