Southampton vs Swansea Preview: History, Key Battle, Team News & More
The football season is finally back on Friday night, after what seemed like an eternity, but on Saturday it's Southampton's turn to step up to the plate - as they host Swansea at St. Mary's.
New boss Mauricio Pellegrino will be hoping for the perfect start at his new club, whilst Paul Clement will be looking to build on the form Swansea showed at the back end of last season, aiming for a less tense finish to the campaign this year.
Both clubs have transfer sagas that seem to want to rumble on, but with the excitement of the first game of the season, this won't overshadow the encounter.
These teams shared the spoils last season with a 2-1 win for Swansea at the Liberty and a one-nil win for Southampton at St.Mary's.
However, history hasn’t been as kind to Swansea in recent years. They have only won two of their last eight games against Southampton, losing the other six.
They will be looking to correct this on the weekend and will also be looking to stop Shane Long who has been through a purple patch against the Swans of late, netting two goals in the last three outings against the Welsh club.
Tammy Abraham vs Jack Stephens
Southampton's defensive record was one of the positives that Saints fans can take out of last season. Despite this style being accused of being dull it only relented on 44 occasions which was only four more times that Everton who finished with 15 more points than them.
Jack Stephens played a big role in this, in what was his breakthrough season. However, he will have his work cut out on Saturday with in form Tammy Abraham.
The striker was a handful throughout the U-21 Championships and has continued this form into pre-season. He has scored three times, most recently the third against Sampdoria. Both players will be looking to nail down their positions with Llorente to return from injury and potentially Van Dijk should his transfer issue not get resolved.
The Van Dijk saga at Southampton has masked the return of Charlie Austin and the impressive 2-0 victory over Sevilla to finish pre-season.
With the last pre-season game showing what they can do Pellegrino is unlikely to change the side that started that day.
Swansea will be without their two stars from last year for conflicting reasons. Sigurdsson looks to push through a transfer at Everton will Llorente is still recovering from a broken arm he suffered on holiday with his family.
Abraham has looked lively in pre-season and will most likely lead the line. Mesa their third most expensive signing ever will be part of the squad but is unlikely to start.
Potential Southampton Lineup: Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis; Ward Prowse, Tadic, Redmond; Gabbiadini
Potential Swansea Lineup: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Britton, Fer; Carroll, Routledge, Ayew; Abraham
Southampton have had the voodoo over Swansea in recent times and it's hard to argue against a home banker for Saturday's contest.
If the Saints manage to nullify Abraham it could be a long afternoon for the Swans who will be without their two best players for this game and potentially for the season.
However the opening weekend always throws up a few surprise results so there is every chance Swansea could spoil the Pellegrino party.