Although Saturday’s clash between Swansea City and Southampton may on paper look to be a low-key affair between two sides sauntering towards their end-of-season holidays, in reality it should be a match for the purists to enjoy.
It’s not only a meeting between two of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in the Premier League, but also two of the brightest young managers in the division – Michael Laudrup and Mauricio Pochettino – and two of this season’s biggest breakthrough players in Michu and Rickie Lambert.
Swansea have had an excellent season to date, as the Welsh side sit comfortably in ninth position and can look forward to European football next season at the Liberty Stadium thanks to their memorable 5-0 victory over Bradford in the Capital One Cup final.
Their success has led to the submission of plans this week to extend their stadium by some 11,000 seats.
The reputation of both club and manager has grown exponentially, but their form has dipped since their victory at Wembley. Laudrup’s side have recorded just one win in the five subsequent matches and they have lost three of their last four.
The Jacks were gameless last weekend thanks to Wigan Athletic’s participation in the FA Cup semi-final, but their opponents this Saturday secured a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham United.
It was a match played at a frenetic pace in dreadful conditions, and though record signing Gaston Ramirez gave the Saints an early second-half lead, they were soon pegged back by Andy Carroll’s deflected free-kick.
The result leaves Southampton 12th, seven points above the relegation zone and only two points off a top-half finish.
That will surely be Pochettino’s next aim, and with an impressive haul off 11 points from their last five matches, the south-coast club are one of the division’s form teams.
Southampton can be backed at 21/10 to continue their good run this weekend, with their Welsh hosts priced at 5/4 and the draw 23/10.
Swansea’s price looks a little short considering their post-Wembley malaise and they’ve only won six of their 16 home matches this season.
Conversely, Southampton haven’t dazzled on the road either this term, with just three wins.
The club’s two managers also have form from their time in Spain. Laudrup’s Mallorca side met Pochettino’s Espanyol three times, and the Dane emerged victorious on two of the three occasions.
With that said, I think the draw could represent the best value this weekend. Swansea are in a bit of a funk, while Southampton have drawn five of their last nine away league matches.
New customers could collect £66 if they use their free £20 bet to back the draw at 23/10, but I think there is even better value out there.
The two sides drew 1-1 last November at St Mary’s, and the odds for a repeat are 5/1, an outcome potentially worth £120 for that £20 stake.
And who would bet against Michu and Lambert obliging with the scoring honours to continue their fine seasons?