Southampton used to be one of the teams that finished in the first half of the Premier League. A few seasons ago they were chasing a Europa League berth, but last year they barely avoided relegation. It was actually Burnley who were expected to struggle to remain in the English top division after joining it in 2015. Instead, they finished in the seventh place and are now trying to make a deep run in Europa League.
Southampton fans are naturally with the way their team performed last year and expect more from them. One of the main reasons for why they finished just three points above the relegation line is the high number of draws. They have finished 15 matches undecided, more than any other team in the Premier League. Meanwhile, they won just seven games, the second-worst performance after West Bromwich who relegated with 31 points.
This season, the hosts must switch into an aggressive gear and make the most of home pitch advantage. A match against Burnley in the opening round is the best opportunity to kick start the season with a victory. The hosts have enjoyed a rather successful campaign of friendly games and have no injury concerns. Meanwhile, Burnley had a busy schedule in late July and August, with games played every three days.
The visitors are winless in the last five matches, including three games played in the Europa League qualifiers. All those matches ended undecided, but Burnley advanced to the next stage after scoring twice in overtime against Aberdeen. They are still engaged in a war on two fronts, with a critical home match scheduled for next week. They will have home pitch advantage against Istanbul BB but are hard-pressed to keep a clean sheet. That’s because the first leg ended in a scoreless draw.
Our Southampton vs Burnley Prediction: Southampton 1-0 Burnley
The wheels of change are in motion and manager Hughes is slowly but surely turning Southampton into an offensive team. Six friendly games were played and in each of them, Southampton scored or conceded three goals. The highest scoring one were against Jiangsu Suning and Celta Vigo both won by the English team by 3:2. On Sunday, they will meet a better defensive team and one willing to protect the scoreless draw. The hosts will have fewer opportunities, but at the same time will have to worry less defensively.
Burnley plays a very important match on Thursday, as they could qualify for the Europa League groups. For this team, the competition is of extraordinary importance and right now the upcoming match is of top priority. They travel to St. Mary’s Stadium willing to defend the draw and more than happy to settle for one point. We believe that they will hold their ground for only that long and eventually concede a goal. Given their inability to score in recent matches, Southampton 1-0 Burnley is a plausible outcome.
Our recommended tip: Southampton to win
A single draw was recorded in the campaign of six friendly games and that was a 3:3 match against Schalke 04. Today’s hosts have no desire to split points against Burnley and will try to capitalize on the visitors’ busy schedule. In July and August they have shown some of the most offensive football they played in recent years. Their offensive prowess will be met by stiff resistance from a strong defensive team; in the end, home pitch advantage and a hail of balls sent towards Hart’s goal should deliver victory.
Fatigue is a serious problem for Burnley players, who are also more concerned about the Thursday match. They can’t afford to lose players to injury, as two of them are already unfit to play. The visitors showed pragmatism in the recent friendly games and finished four of them undecided. It is only natural for them to try a similar approach against Southampton, so we don’t expect them to be too dangerous upfront.
Last season was surprisingly good for Burnley and disappointing for Southampton. In this context, it comes as no surprise that today’s visitors also came on top in direct matches. They won on the road with the late goals scored by Vokes and were denied victory at home by a last-minute equalizer. Before that, home pitch advantage proved to be decisive and the hosts won the vast majority of games. Overall, the two teams are evenly matched, with 10 draws, 10 victories for Southampton and 9 for Burnley.
Burnley won just twice at St. Mary’s Stadium, last year and exactly one decade ago. Both victories were secured by the odd goal and they were able to keep a clean sheet. The visitors will probably pursue a similar outcome and will play defensively, hoping that opportunity will arise. Recent games were all low-scoring ones, but Southampton secured four consecutive high-scoring victories. With an average of three goals scored per match, they were able to win despite conceding a combined four goals.
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Players to watch: Charlie Austin & Ashley Barnes
Charlie Austin is once again expected to lead Southampton to victory, as their best striker. Last season was just as disappointing for the footballer as it was for his team, with Austin scoring just seven goals. That was a poor performance compared to previous years, but in this match he is entitled to be optimistic. That’s because he won’t find himself stranded up front, but in the company of two more strikers. The hosts will be willing to push for victory from the first minute and line up an offensive starting formation.
Burnley fans don’t know precisely what to expect from their offensive line up. That’s because Chris Wood who has scored the most goals for the team last season is doubtful. He didn’t travel to Istanbul for the Europa League match either, as je suffered an infection from a bite. Even if he plays, he’s likely not to do it at 100% and will probably be used as a substitute. Ashley Barnes is the obvious offensive choice after scoring nine goals last year, including the winning goal against Southampton.