We spoke to Steve Grant from SaintsWeb about today's game.
It was a summer of change yet again for Southampton in the transfer market. How have the new signings settled in?
Virgil van Dijk has ensured that we’ve barely missed Toby Alderweireld, and Maarten Stekelenburg brings experience and quality in goal while Fraser Forster’s sidelined. Jordy Clasie has been injured for most of the time since his arrival, but since getting into the side has increasingly shown why he is so highly-rated. The rest have had slightly more bit-part roles, but the general feeling is that, while our first eleven is not as strong as last season (solely due to the loss of Morgan Schneiderlin), our squad is much deeper with the ability to cover more injuries.
If you could place one Manchester City player in the Southampton team, who would it be?
Even in a squad packed full of world-class talent, it’s probably still an easy choice to pick Sergio Aguero. Clinical finishing has often been our problem in the last couple of years, and there aren’t many better in world football at the moment.
If you could place a past Saints player (in his prime) in the current team, who would it be?
A fairly obvious pick, but it’s got to be Matt Le Tissier. No player in our entire history has been capable of turning a game in one moment, whether it’s with his vision picking out a pass to a team-mate or with a spectacular goal of his own.
The Southampton academy is known as one of the best in the country. Any rising stars in the ranks we should keep an eye on?
The likes of Harrison Reed and Matt Targett have already had first-team exposure, but there is also the likes of Callum Slattery, an England under-17 international, who is regarded as one of the hottest talents to come through our academy in recent years. Considering some of the names that have graduated at Staplewood, that’s pretty high praise.
Who is your most important player?
At the moment it’s Graziano Pelle. He’s the focal point of the attack and has added so much to his game in the season-and-a-bit he’s been with us. He’s not just a goalscorer, but the main link man to bring others into play as well. With his aerial ability, he also gives support defensively, and his work-rate is often under-appreciated. He’ll be missed today as he picked up his fifth booking of the season against Stoke.
What will be the key battle in today’s game?
Yaya Toure v Victor Wanyama. In the games against City where we’ve enjoyed relative success, it’s been because we’ve managed to keep Toure quiet. If we let him dictate the tempo of the game then it’ll probably be a long afternoon for us. Our success in recent years has been built through the central midfield area - the loss of Schneiderlin is a blow in that regard, but Wanyama can step up as the senior player there now.
Predicted starting XI:
Cedric - Fonte van Dijk Bertrand
Tadic S Davis Mané