The third Premier League game today sees Southampton play host to Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough at St Mary’s Stadium. After Europa League disappointment on Thursday Claude Puel’s men will look to bounce back to winning ways this afternoon.
Thursday saw The Saints dumped out of Europe by Israeli outfit Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Knowing that they only needed a 0-0 draw to progress it left Claude Puel with quite the conundrum. Was he to shut up shop and play for the 0-0 or see off the opposition with an attacking lineup?
He went for the former but the gamble didn’t pay off as the Israeli side went ahead late on. That meant that Southampton then had to score twice to progress to the Round of 32 and although Virgil Van Dijk scored in injury time it meant that the Saints were pushed into third in the group due to a lesser head to head record.
Not only are they no longer in Europe but they are without star striker Charlie Austin due to a shoulder injury. The former QPR man looks set to miss out on at least the next two matches and the hope will be that he is back in time for the busy Christmas period.
Life wasn’t much better in the Premier League last weekend either as they were the first team to lose to Crystal Palace in seven outings. They were well beaten by Alan Pardew’s side as the Eagles flew away with a 3-0 win at Selhurst Park.
That defeat means that Southampton started the weekend in 12th and they sit just one place above Middlesbrough who started the weekend in 13th. They have moved up the table thanks to a largely uninspiring win over Hull City on Monday night.
That game was in fairness not a classic for the ages but Middlesbrough fans won’t care all that much as the result was much more important than the performance. The first half had very little to write about but thankfully it got better after the break especially from a ‘Boro point of view as Gaston Ramirez scored against his former club.
And today he goes up against the club that bought him to English football. So he will no doubt love to continue his streak of scoring against former employers with a goal this afternoon. Ramirez spent two seasons at St Mary’s and he is arguably a signing to forget due to the outlay that they made for the Uruguayan.
After a relatively bright debut season for Southampton his career went south under the auspicies of Ronald Koeman and that is when he started his on loan tour of the North East taking in both Hull and Middlesbrough before securing a permanent contract at The Riverside Stadium.
These sides have the exact goal difference record of 13 goals for and 15 goals against therefore don’t expect a lot from this afternoon especially with Charlie Austin out injured for Southampton. I’m going to put my money on a very low scoring draw, who knows maybe even a 0-0. Bore draw for me.