Pellegrini Targets Win against Surprise Package Southampton
Manchester City, as the reigning Premier League champions, were expected to be in the race for the title after 10 matches. Not many expected to see Southampton ahead of them after 12 matches. Ronald Koeman has had both great success and extraordinary failure during this time as a manager, but he was given little chance of success when he took over a Southampton team that saw the departure of several first-team players in the summer. The two teams face each other on Sunday at the St Mary stadium. The latest Premier League odds from Betfair places City as slight favourites for the victory at 2/5.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team have suffered from inconsistent form this campaign, but they come on the back of an impressive 3-2 win over Bayern Munich. Sergio Aguero appears to be better than any other player in the Premier League right now. His hat-trick against the German club has led to numerous plaudits in the last few days. The Argentine leads the way in terms of Premier League goals scored this season with 12 to his name.
Aguero will undoubtedly be the man to watch on Sunday, but Koeman reckons that his team has been the best in the league so far. They have certainly been the best defensively as they have conceded only six goals in the two league matches. A run of more than 400 minutes without conceding a single league goal recently came to an end after the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. Only Chelsea can come close to Southampton’s defensive record and even they have conceded almost twice as much as the south coast outfit.
Even after losing important players like Dejan Lovren, Koeman has shown that he can assemble a squad that now looks favourite to finish in the top six.
City will have their work cut out in order to score against Southampton. Apart from having a stubborn defence, the team from the south coast also appear more than well-equipped to create havoc at the other end. Despite featuring newcomers to the Premier League like Pelle, Southampton have been able to average two goals per game.
The Premier League has become incredibly competitive, but one of the reasons for bookmakers favouring City over Southampton is the relatively kinder fixture list for the Saints up until now. Apart from Tottenham and Liverpool, Koeman’s team has not faced any of the big guns so far. The real test for the team will come in the next few weeks. After facing City, Southampton head into matches against Arsenal and Manchester United. The fixture against table leaders Chelsea is also not far ahead.
City kept their Champions League last 16 qualification hopes alive with a late win over Bayern, but it was against 10 men who almost came to getting a result had the Etihad stadium. The win disguises the poor form, which has resulted in Pellegrini’s job coming under threat in the last few weeks. They have already fallen a massive eight points behind leaders Chelsea and they cannot afford to slip any further. City appear to face a mental block, or the lack of motivation, just after success in the league. Pellegrini must ensure that this is not the case if he is to become one of the top managers in the league.
Even though Manchester City are the favourites to get a win, Southampton are not far behind. Betfair places the Saints at 21/10 for three points, while the possibility of a stalemate is given odds of 12/5.
Southampton could potentially exploit any tiredness within the City team given that they did not have any midweek action unlike the visitors. City could go above Southampton with a win, but a bigger motivation would be to close the gap between them and Chelsea. Jose Mourinho’s team have the possibility to extend the lead into double digits if they get a win against Sunderland on Saturday.
Pellegrini is aware that Chelsea are going through a splendid period and it will be difficult to see them dropping points. The best City can do at the moment is staying in touch with them. The club from Manchester have eight matches between now and the turn of the year. Even though it presents a lot of opportunities to improve their form, there is also the danger of their season ending even before the turn of 2014.
City are already out of the League Cup, while they could be knocked out of the Champions League as well. It would be disastrous if they were to fall further behind Chelsea.
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