Fireworks are forecast for Friday night's televised Premier League tussle as Southampton and Aston Villa lock horns at St Mary's. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"Ralph Hasenhuttl’s outfit rank third for Expected Points (xP) over the past eight games and have won the non-penalty Expected Goals (npxG) battle in four of their five home fixtures"
Adams seals Southampton success
Che Adams superb strike was the difference as Southampton held on to earn their first away Premier League win of the season against Watford at Vicarage Road last weekend. The Scotland forward latched on to an Adam Armstrong pass before turning on the edge of the box and curling the ball into the top corner in the 20th minute, the only goal of the game.
Saints were good value for their victory, and were the better side both before and after Adams' strike. Ralph Hasenhuttl's troops regularly cut open the Watford defence in transitions, however, defender Kyle Walker-Peters and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy were both called into action late on to preserve the advantage as the hosts pushed for an equaliser.
Speaking post-match, Hasenhuttl said: "We could have scored more. We had massive chances. It should be 3-0 or 4-0 at half-time. When it is just one it is a chance for the opponent. The rest of the performance was good but we need to be more clinical."
Defender Jack Stephens remains out but on-loan forward Armando Broja could return to the squad this weekend.
Villa fall to heavy home loss
Aston Villa fell to a fourth successive Premier League defeat last Sunday as West Ham ran out 4-1 winners at Villa Park. Dean Smith's side were trailing 2-1 at the break with Ollie Watkins getting on the scoresheet but Ezri Konsa's red card soon after the interval shifted all momentum towards the visitors and Villa shipped two goals in the final 10 minutes.
Konsa's controversial sending off enraged under-pressure Smith, who felt it was the turning point in the contest. Spealing post-match, he said: ""It wasn't a red card. The referee saw it in real time and thought the ball was going towards the goal. It amazes me, it wasn't going towards the goal - and Ashley Young was covering. That staggers me."
Watkins hit the woodwork with Villa's best second-half attempt but it was a day to forget for Smith's side. Jacob Ramsey was forced off with a first-half injury, whilst Danny Ings was absent due to a COVID and Douglas Luiz wasn't deemed fit enough to feature. All three are now set to miss Friday's fixture and will be joined on the sidelines by suspended Konsa.
Curiously, only two of the last 11 Premier League meetings between Southampton and Aston Villa have been won by the home side, with the away team taking top honours in three of the most recent four renewals. During that sample, Saints and Villa have shared an even W3-D3-L3 return in head-to-head meetings at St Mary's going back to 2003.
Southampton 2.166/5 have displayed solid signs of progress since their opening day loss to Everton. Although Saints have since posted only two triumphs (W2-D5-L2), Ralph Hasenhuttl's outfit rank third for Expected Points (xP) over the past eight games and have won the non-penalty Expected Goals (npxG) battle in four of their five home fixtures.
Aston Villa 3.7011/4 have endured a tough schedule yet Dean Smith's squad have been turned over in six of 10 matches, shipping 12 goals in their most recent four encounters. The Villans are ranked inside the bottom-six across all the major ratio metrics across their last eight games and head to St Mary's missing a number of key cogs in their preferred starting XI.
Southampton's matches are averaging the joint-lowest goals per-game (2.10) so far this season with half of their 10 tussles producing no more than a solitary strike. Only five sides have seen a lower Expected Goals (xG) per-game average than Saints' 2.46 as at least one team has failed to score in five of the hosts' Premier League matches this term.
In contrast, Aston Villa's encounters have been goal-heavy. A healthy 7/10 (70%) games have broken the Over 2.5 Goals 1.8910/11 barrier with 3.30 goals per-game on average. Despite their struggles, Villa have managed to score in all bar one of their 10 outings.
Considering the conflicting goals numbers, I'm happier taking a pro-Southampton approach here and supporting Saints with Southampton 0 & -0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.865/6. This sees half our stake on Saints in the Draw No Bet market and half on the hosts to win - if the game ends all-square, we'll only lose half of our stake.
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