Referee: Roger East
Kick Off: 3pm, 13/08/16
With the helms of both Southampton and Watford acquired by Premier League rookies over the summer, the degree of difficulty involved with predicting how the duo’s opening day duel will pan out has been upped a couple of notches.
Claude Puel replaces Ronald Koeman in the Southampton dugout after guiding lowly Nice to fourth in Ligue 1 last time around, missing out on Champions League qualification by a mere two points.
It’s the calibre of overachievement that suggests the Saints have appointed smartly once again and the same can be said of Watford.
The Hornets will be sent into battle by Italian coach Walter Mazzarri, replacing Quique Sanchez Flores, for the first time at St Mary’s. He’s been out of work since leaving Inter in November 2014, but win ratios of 62.5% and 59.89% with the Nerazzurri and Napoli before that says he knows what he’s doing with the tactics board.
Both have been fairly quiet in the transfer market so far, each adding four players to the fold.
Watford may be without two of theirs, with Brice Dja Djedje struggling for fitness and striker Issac Success ruled out. As for the Saints, £11m signing Nathan Redmond is poised to make his debut, alongside Alex McCarthy, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jeremy Pied, whom Puel convinced to follow him to the Premier League from Nice.
The latter quartet can be confident of starting with a win, based on the fact that the Hornets haven’t so much as scored a goal in four meetings with their opening-day adversaries.
They finished the previous campaign as one of the Premier League’s lowest scorers too, despite boasting a pair of strikers who attracted bids north of a combined £50m this summer.
Only four outfits struck fewer times than Mazzarri’s men across the whole of last term, while just five teams kept more clean sheets than Southampton – the 13/10 about them kicking off the new season with another shut out looks a great price.
Chelsea inflicted the Saints only home league loss of 2016 and even then they required an 89th-minute Branislav Ivanovic strike to snare the spoils. Puel’s Nice side lost the same number on home turf and didn’t concede in any of their final four at base camp.
The Frenchman appears perfectly poised to continue the excellent work of his predecessor and it’s 19/10 that he starts with a win to nil.
A Southampton victory by any means pays at 4/5, while 7/2 says Watford will triumph and it’s 12/5 about the draw.