By 90Min
August 24, 2018

Southampton host Leicester City on Saturday in an intriguing Premier League clash between two sides looking to kickstart their campaign following a lukewarm opening to the season for both teams.

The hosts narrowly avoided relegation last term under the stewardship of Mark Hughes and will be looking to aim for higher levels than the Premier League basement this season, although last weekend’s 2-1 defeat away to Everton suggested that things may be just as tough this time around.

Leicester, meanwhile, find themselves five places above their opponents this weekend in eighth, following the Foxes’ 2-0 victory at home to newly promoted Wolves last week.

Southampton, however, failed to record a win from either of their two opening matches of the campaign and will be seeking to use home advantage this weekend to overcome former manager Claude Puel in the Leicester dugout.


Form


The home side will be looking to pick up their first three points of the season on Saturday, having opened their Premier League campaign with a 0-0 draw at home to Burnley and slipped to defeat in their first away match of the season to Everton last week.

Mark Hughes’ side will be hoping their more solid start at St Mary’s will provide the foundations for a positive outing against Leicester, with the clean sheet earned against Sean Dyche’s side on the opening weekend a positive note to build upon.

Leicester have had mixed fortunes in their opening matches of the season, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat away to Manchester United in the first match of the new season, before bouncing back with an encouraging 2-0 success against Premier League new boys Wolves last week.

The momentum is in Leicester’s favour, but with both sides giving early indications that they are stronger at home, Southampton will fancy their chances of getting a result against the Foxes.


Previous Encounter


The two sides last did battle in the latter stages of last season, as the King Power Stadium hosted a 0-0 draw between two sides whose managers had much to prove.

It was an unspectacular step for Mark Hughes in guiding his new Southampton side towards safety from the relegation zone, and another uninspired performance to add further pressure to Claude Puel in his bid to inject greater life into his Leicester team.

LINDSEY PARNABY/GettyImages

With both sides sure to be keen on victory, but equally keen on avoiding a second defeat in their first three games, there is a danger of a repeat scenario on Saturday.


Key Battle


With both sides shy of goals in the previous encounter, and short on convincing firepower so far this season, Saturday’s encounter could hinge on which side’s front man can fire for his side.

Danny Ings partnered Charlie Austin in attack for Southampton against Everton last weekend and managed to score his first goal for the Saints since his summer move from Liverpool. The Saints’ new number nine’s pace, work rate and sharp shooting could be key to unlocking Leicester’s new-look defence on Saturday.

Jamie Vardy would typically be Leicester’s equivalent in terms of spearheading the Leicester attack with his similarly industrious striking abilities, but the England forward’s red card against Wolves last weekend means that Kelechi Ihenacho is likely to deputise for Vardy at St Mary’s.

The Nigerian striker is a real handful on his day and could be trouble for a Southampton defence which has struggled for consistency since the departure of Virgil van Dijk in January.


Team News


Mark Hughes is set to have a fully fit Southampton squad at his disposal on Saturday, with Jannik Vestergaard expected to overcome his illness and Mohamed Elyounoussi set to recover from a tight hamstring in time for Saturday’s encounter.

Vardy’s red card against Wolves last weekend means that Claude Puel will have to do without Leicester’s star striker for the trip to St Mary’s due to suspension. Meanwhile, Shinji Okazaki continues to struggle with muscular problems whilst Matty James is still recovering from Achilles tendon issues. Summer signing Caglar Soyuncu is also working on his match fitness and is unlikely to be involved.


Prediction


Though both sides will be keen to boost their early season credentials with a win, Saturday’s encounter is also a match which both sides will be under early pressure not to lose. Two losses in the opening three matches would make for poor reading and would become a reality for either side should they suffer defeat at St Mary’s.

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The indications point towards a tight affair, and a draw may be a fair result for both sides this early on in the new Premier League campaign.

Score prediction: Southampton 1-1 Leicester City

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