Southampton v Swansea
Quiet transfer window for Saints
Mane, Pelle, Wanyama, Clyne, Schneiderlin, Shaw, Lallana, Lambert, Lovren. Just some of the star names who have left St. Mary's in the summer transfer window over the past few seasons as pragmatism kicked in with players wanting a move to a bigger club and the money men making sure the number at the bottom of the balance sheet is black, and not a red one.
So in that regard new boss Mauricio Pellegrino has been somewhat fortunate. Skipper Virgil van Dijk's departure has been on the cards for ages, it was just a question of: where, when, how much? Jay Rodriguez has hardly played at all over the past few seasons so is no huge loss and right-back Cuco Martina wasn't going to play much either with the excellent Cedric in the squad.
Wherever he goes, Van Dijk will go for a decent wack but we'll have to see whether that's re-invested and if so, in what position. They'd already somewhat prepared for his departure with the signing of Polish Under 20 centre-back Jan Bednarek but of greater interest was their capture of former Juventus man Mario Lemina. The £14.4 million signing is a versatile midfielder who can operate just about anywhere. He should add a rea touch of class to the side.
Sigurdssongate drags on for the Swans
Gylfi Sigurdsson is by far the club's most valuable asset both on and off the pitch. No-one doubts that. And it's been all about him all summer with Everton apparently making several bids for him. The message from the Swansea hierarchy seems to be a sort of 'we love him but we're somewhat willing to sell him but your £40 million isn't enough and we want 50 but we may settle for 45 or...not sell him at all.' Clear as mud?
The result is that no-one quite knows what's happening next and he'll either stay without doing a proper pre-season or will be sold after all and Paul Clement will be running out of time to replace him.
In addition to that they'll be without the services of powerful target man Fernando Llorente while livewire midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng is also out injured. The Spaniard's absence means Jordan Ayew should start upfront but Swansea fans will be eager to get an early glimpse of Tammy Abraham, who may start himself as the most forward man with Ayew just behind given it's been confirmed that Sigurdsson is unavailable for...whatever reason.
I'd rate a straight Saints win as a decent bet at [1.66]. It shows how close the league was last season that despite only collecting five more points, they finished seven places ahead of them. But they always looked a better side to me. They won 1-0 early on in the season last time out (a Charlie Austin goal) and I think this may go a very similar way.
So I'll push the boat out a bit and go with the 8/5 on Betfair Sportsbook that the hosts can win to nil. Jose Fonte and van Dijk would have been the two first-choice centre-backs this time last year and neither will play here but Fraser Forster, Cedric, Ryan Bertrand and Maya Yoshida have played plenty of times together and know each other's games inside out. Add the Swansea absences in attack and there's an obvious but good bet there.
It's comforting to know the Opta stat that the Swans have failed to score in six of their last 10 matches against Southampton.
'Unders' looks the way to but then again a price of [1.81] reflects that and I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket by this match turning out different to how I expect it to and losing on both counts so I'll leave this well alone.
Manolo Gabbiadini (the favourite) is the obvious place to start at 8/5...but will he start? Yeah, probably but I wouldn't want to be gambling on a market like that until I'm sure that it's him and not Charlie Austin in playing upfront. Or both. Dusan Tadic is as dangerous a creative midfielder as anyone on his day when he's up for it but again, I'd rather wait and see what sort of his mood he's in at the start of the season before piling in at 13/5.
Some nice round figures when it comes to Mike Jones' stats from last season. 30 games produced 120 yellows at exactly four a match and five reds at exactly one in every six matches. Based on last year's stats there are few reasons to think this one might get out of hand so if you want to play this one, laying 45 points or more would be the way to go.