Covid and injuries causing Ralph some hassle
Southampton came through a tough encounter in Wales on Saturday to eventually triumph 2-3 against Russell Martin's Swansea, but the game went to extra-time and Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl while satisfied with the FA Cup progress, lamented on the impact it could have on preparations for Tuesday night's rearranged fixture with the Bees.
He said: "When you are one man down for nearly 90 minutes it is not the best preparation for our Brentford game, so the biggest laughers today are Brentford because they know that we have invested a lot."
Last season's cup semi-finalists are 32.031/1 in the Winner market.
The Austrian made five changes, with Kyle Walker-Peters, Mohammed Salisu, Ibrahima Diallo, Shane Long and Adam Armstrong not featuring. The previous Newcastle fixture was postponed and he was missing Tino Livramento, Che Adams and Will Smallbone. Livramento has been one of his stand-out players this term but he's had fluid build-up on his knee, so it remains to be seen when he returns.
Last week's news that the club has new ownership, and by all accounts a new business model akin to Red Bull Leipzig, following Sport Republic's successful takeover at St Mary's was greeted quite warmly (the competition bar has been set low). I doubt it will be a case of flashing the cash like Newcastle, and Hasenhuttl has already said the January transfer window "isn't his friend".
The Saints were last in action on 28th December and earned a decent point against Tottenham with a 1-1 that went totally against the xG process for the game. Spurs hit 2.81xG versus Southampton's lowly 0.38xG. That was the highest figure Hasenhuttl's team had allowed since their 4-0 defeat at Liverpool at the end of November - giving up an xG of 3.07.
His side were aggressive early on against the north Londoners, but when they were reduced to 10-men, they had to fight and block and defended manfully. Antonio Conte's men had 20 shots in total, but 15 of them were after the dismissal.
They are now one defeat from their last six in the Premier League - but have drawn four.
Bees prepared for big run of games
The Bees had a more fluent success with the FA Cup victory at Port Vale with a 4-1 win thanks to Bryan Mbeumo's first career hat-trick. The game has little relevance to Tuesday's match as manager Thomas Frank made eight changes with only Ethan Pinnock, Mads Bech Sorensen and Yoane Wissa keeping their places.
Vale only managed one shot, and Frank was a happy man afterwards saying: "I thought we were brilliant in the first half, especially in terms of our attitude. In the second half I thought we started slow and Port Vale came after us a little bit.
The west Londoners arrested a run of three straight losses in the top flight with their 2-1 home success against Aston Villa. But Villa defended poorly and never really looked in danger against Brentford despite conceding two goals. That's a worry going forward.
Out of possession, the Bees and their 3-5-2 like to get men behind the ball, but their defence has been leaking goals of late on the road with two or more goals conceded in every game since the West Ham 1-2 success. Southampton's high press against Frank's set-up could be interesting.
The element of fatigue is the elephant in the room, and while Brentford had the easier weekend and more of a luxury of resting a swathe of players, I can't get excited about backing the visitors despite the price of 4.03/1. Their performances against Villa and Burnley worry me. I've outlined the lack of aggression and chances against Steven Gerrard's side, but at Turf Moor they conceded three poor goals, and their structure which is usually so sound, was all over the place.
That was Burnley's first Premier League win in October, and Brentford imploded again at the back with three shipped in against Newcastle.
Southampton's 2.0811/10 price sees the layers take no chances. Against early season Brentford, they could have been more a 2.47/5 or 2.56/4 shot, but they've got a decent home record with only one defeat and six draws, and while the latter gives food for thought for a trading option to back at 3.65 and lay off at around 2.89/5, the win for the hosts looks fair considering they've conceded just eight goals at St Mary's all term.
Weighing up a bet for the Over/Under 2.5 has to factor in the market to be a bit more nebulous with more liquidity. The split of 1.910/11 and 2.1011/10 is a tricky one for a bet. With Southampton's F9 A8 record at St Mary's, the Under 2.5 should be shorter, but tipping the numbers more towards evens is the way Brentford have conceding 13 in their last six games against just one goal conceded in their first three (with two clean sheets).
Unfortunately backing the Brentford Clean Sheet 'No' is 1.241/4, so I won't be tipping that.
I am going to be a bit more ambitious and go for the Over 1.5 Goals in the First Half bet. That could be a little ovepriced given that Frank's team have conceded in the first 45 minutes in 11 of their last 12 games, and they even let Norwich score on six minutes. And they never score.
We can back that at 3.02/1, and a very early goal means you can trade back your stake to garner a green book.
Or you could play that bet with Southampton to win in a Sportsbook Betbuilder that pays a healthy 4.75.
One bet I have had small bet of success with this term has been the lay of the shortest priced striker for the opposition (to whom I am backing) in the To Score market. I've been against Ivan Toney on one occasion with a successful lay, and if we can lay him around at 2.77/4 max, pre or in-play, I am happy to take him on again. He hasn't scored in his previous four Premier League matches, but the Saints have only conceded eight at home all season - which is only two more than Liverpool and Manchester City.