Mauricio Pochettino returns to his former club, with Tottenham looking for their third straight win. Michael Cox considers the tactical battle, while Alan Thompson provides the betting analysis...
"Nathan Redmond will be the only natural winger on the pitch and could be key to Southampton's attacks"
Southampton v Tottenham
Live on Sky Sports 1
Match Odds: Southampton [3,0], Tottenham 2.77/4, The Draw 3.412/5
Mauricio Pochettino returns to St Mary's with his Tottenham side, hoping for a repeat of last season's comfortable 2-0 victory, secured with goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Spurs have recorded consecutive wins over Hull and Burnley, but this should prove a bigger test.
Pochettino will need to rotate over the Christmas period, but this XI is likely to be relatively unchanged. Harry Winks has impressed in central midfield, and while there are higher-profile names in this Tottenham squad, there's no reason the midfielder shouldn't continue alongside Victor Wanyama - another returning to his old club - in the engine room. Mousa Dembele could play at the top of the midfield trio, pushing forward in possession to link with Harry Kane.
Against a Southampton front three that often ends up narrow and crowding the centre of the pitch, the full-backs will be crucial for Tottenham. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are both excellent at overlapping down the touchlines, and the away side are likely to stretch the play whenever possible, perhaps with Wanyama dropping into a back three. This will also allow Spurs' wide players inside. Erik Lamela hopes to return, but it's more likely he'll be saved for upcoming games. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are more likely to start either side of Dembele.
Claude Puel's Southampton have rather gone under the radar so far this season, but they're an organised and combative side also boasting great technical quality. They won't allow Spurs any space in midfield, with holding midfielder Oriel Romeu sitting deep and protecting the defence keenly, Jordy Clasie providing technical quality alongside him and the underrated Steven Davis working hard to get up and down the pitch. Spurs may be forced to attack from wide.
Southampton may encounter problems going forward, however. Sofiane Boufal tends to move inside into narrow positions between the lines while Jay Rodriguez probably doesn't have the speed to run in behind regularly - he's still short of full sharpness - and there's a danger Southampton will attempt to play in-between the lines against a Tottenham side who simply refuses to concede any space in that zone.
That means Southampton's most important attacker will be Nathan Redmond. Although he might be forced back by the runs of Spurs' full-backs, he boasts the pace and directness to launch sudden attacks and catch out Spurs' centre-backs. Indeed, it's likely that Redmond will be the only natural winger on the pitch, and he could be a good first goalscorer bet at around 11.010/1 - he's got three this season, but has the potential to be a much more regular goalscorer.
It's worth considering, though, that these sides have very different Christmas schedules. Tottenham have a gentle Wednesday-Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday run, while Southampton have the ludicrous prospect of three matches in six days, an entirely unfair situation. Puel may therefore feel the need to rest a couple of players here, although of Saints' three games over the festive period, this will probably see the strongest side used, and therefore we should be set for a very even game.
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
There have been fewer goals scored at St Mary’s (33) than any other ground in the Premier League this season and the hosts have only lost once (Chelsea 2-0). When you also consider that only three of Tottenham’s away games have gone over 2.5 goals and have produced only 17 goals in total. It looks like this could be a low scoring game.
Spurs are without a win in their last five on the road and have only won two of their eight away days (Stoke City 4-0 & Middlesbrough 2-1). Their away fixture program has been tough though with their other six games all against sides currently occupying a top half position, and they have drawn four of those six.
Of the 'elite' sides, Saints have welcomed Liverpool and Chelsea to St Mary’s, and they failed to register a goal against either of them. Only their 3-1 victory over Burnley has seen them score more than once at home this campaign.
It’s not hard to see why under 2.5 goals is trading at around 1.774/5 but I actually had it shorter than that at around 1.654/6 so in my opinion the current price offers some value. I also think the market has got Tottenham a bit too short at 2.77/4 and I certainly couldn’t back them at that price.
I think the draw is a player here and while it can be backed at 3.3512/5 in the match odds market, I would rather take on the high scoring draws in return for better odds by dutch back 0-0 at 10.09/1 and 1-1 at 7.06/1 giving approximately 4.1.