One can hardly imagine that it used to be Southampton that were the heavyweights between these two sides, with Saints once an established Premier League outfit while Stoke were battling in the lower divisions. Several years on and the tables have completely turned and with Stoke performing so well in the league, Saints will have it all to do if they are to aid their relegation fight and net some points at the Britannia Stadium.
Even though the first few weeks of the season may have progressed quite slowly for Stoke, the Potters have returned even stronger over recent months and might even be knocking on the door of the European places in the next few weeks. Positioned in 8th, it’s been another sterling season for Tony Pulis’ side and a lot of their success is down to recent form. The Britannia Stadium outfit are currently on a nine match unbeaten run and after beating Liverpool in comfortable 3-1 fashion on Boxing Day, it’s no surprise to see that the team are full of confidence. Admittedly, they had drawn three games before that, but it is clear that the Potters are again that established, hard-to-beat side that so many rival teams simply hate to play.
Southampton supporters are also probably happy with the way their season has gone. While it wasn’t too long ago that Nigel Adkins was tipped to be the first Premier League manager to leave his post, Saints have turned their campaign round of late and approach this game sat outside the bottom three. They may only be one point above 18th place, but for a side who has just come up from the Championship they are at least doing themselves justice and will fight until the very end to preserve their top flight status. It could be said that their form over recent weeks has been mixed, following two draws, two losses and one win through their last five matches. However, they may be slightly optimistic ahead of this away match, with Adkins’ men picking up four points from their last three encounters on the road.
In terms of team news, Tony Pulis has problems in defence with suspension ruling out Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron. However, with the likes of Matthew Upson and Ryan Shotton waiting in the wings as readymade replacements, the issues are not too severe for the Potters. Southampton approach the game again without Adam Lallana, who is still on the sidelines with a knee issue. Despite other concerns to several other members of his squad, Nigel Adkins claims that Lallana will be the only absentee.
As for a prediction, we think this will end in a comfortable Stoke victory. Southampton are regarded as a team who like to pass their way to success, but we don’t think this approach will work with this physical Stoke outfit. Bearing this in mind, our tip is a 2-0 win for Tony Pulis’ men.