Two teams who have competed at opposite ends of the table throughout the campaign meet on the final day of the Premier League season when Southampton host champions Manchester City at St Mary’s (3pm Sunday).
The degree to which Man City have dominated this Premier League season is made evident by the fact that they were crowned champions with almost a month of the campaign still to play. Southampton have been locked in a battle against relegation.
Saints looked in dire straits a couple of weeks ago, but a haul of seven points in their last three matches sees them come into the final day of the season in a very strong position to avoid the drop. The decision to sack Mauricio Pellegrino and bring in Mark Hughes has been vindicated by their likely continuation in the Premier League for another season.
The key result came on Tuesday in a 1-0 win away to direct rivals Swansea. Southampton were circumspect to start with but gradually began to attack more decisively as it became clear that their hosts offered little genuine threat to their goal. They got into better positions and created the better chances, with Charlie Austin providing the primary threat.
Hughes added to his side’s attacking options by bringing on Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini to join Austin up front and was shortly thereafter rewarded when Gabbiadini converted a scrappy but potentially priceless goal to put Saints ahead. Unlike at Everton last weekend, they were able to hold on from there to secure a hugely important three points.
Southampton are not yet mathematically certain of survival but it would take a strange set of results on the final day of the season to see them go down. The win on Tuesday saw them move three points clear of Swansea, who currently occupy the last of the three relegation places, with a goal difference that is superior to the tune of nine goals. Even if Swansea win at home to Stoke, Southampton just need to avoid a severe thrashing to stay up.
That, of course, isn’t necessarily guaranteed against a Man City side who have won by five or more goals on five occasions in the Premier League this season and who have scored 105 times over the course of their title-winning campaign. Their supremacy over their competitors is made clear by the fact that have both the best attacking and defensive records in the league.
The trophy has already been lifted and congratulations received and shared, but City still have some targets to chase on the final day of the campaign. They have already set new Premier League records for the number of points (97), wins (31) and goals (105) in a season but others such as best goal difference, biggest title-winning margin, most away wins and most away goals are all still within their reach.
Goals from Danilo, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho, all assisted by Leroy Sane, powered City to a 3-1 victory at home to Brighton on Wednesday in a match in which coach Pep Guardiola gave starts to a few players who haven’t been regulars this season. It also acted as Yaya Toure’s farewell to the Etihad after a highly successful eight-year spell at the club.
As Guardiola noted afterwards, the opportunity to be the first team in the Premier League era to reach 100 points will act as another motivating factor for his team on Sunday. He is proud of what his team have achieved this season, despite their disappointment in the Champions League, and wants to finish a campaign that has yielded the league title and the Carabao Cup on one last high this weekend.
Southampton gave a good account of themselves in only falling to a 1-2 defeat away to City last November, with Raheem Sterling scoring the winner deep into stoppage time. But with safety now all but mathematically assured, there is sure to be a certain relaxing of focus on Sunday. Man City can be expected to secure a relatively comfortable victory, albeit not one that will seriously jeopardise Southampton’s strong position in terms of avoiding the drop.
Our Preview’s Southampton vs. Man City Betting Tips Verdict
Our recommended wager with the bookies is:
- Bet on Manchester City -1.5 goals on the Asian Handicap @ 17/13 (better than 5/4) with BetVictor.