Southampton v Leeds United – Saturday 6th August 2011 – 5.20 kick-off
Last time the sides met
Southampton 1-0 Leeds United (Saturday 13th March 2010)
A year ago, it was Leeds United who clinched second spot in a dramatic finale against Bristol Rovers. Simon Grayson has since established the Whites as a force to be reckoned with as Leeds missed out on a play-off place by a whisker. At times last season, Leeds were mesmerising to watch as they tore Championship sides to pieces. This May, it was the Saints’ turn to seize the final automatic promotion spot having fended off a relentless Huddersfield side. Manager Nigel Adkins will hope to follow the example set by this weekend’s opponents for the coming season.
Transfers In: Transfers Out:
Steve De Ridder (De Graafschap) Oscar Gobern (Huddersfield Town)
Jack Cork (Chelsea)
Naturally, promotion has given the Saints fresh optimism that they can re-discover top-flight football in the near future. However, there are still doubts as to whether former physio Nigel Adkins can manage a big club in the Championship. He has been relegated with Scunthorpe United, which isn’t a disgrace considering the lack of resources at that club.
Yet Southampton are a totally different animal to Scunthorpe and their season could be determined by Adkins’ approach. He might fear that the Saints cannot afford to be too open at the risk of being ripped apart by the superior sides of the Championship. This potentially negative approach could leave top scorer Rickie Lambert isolated should Adkins change from their usual attack-minded 4-4-2 formation to the typically defensive 4-5-1 system. Settling for draws rather than taking the risk of defeat for a potential three points may infuriate the fans, and ultimately cost Southampton their Championship place. The first 10 games will give a clear indication as to how daring Nigel Adkins will be.
New signing Steve De Ridder produced an exciting display in the friendly against West Bromwich Albion. However Adkins may perceive him to be a luxury player. It remains to be seen if he possesses the mental strength to compete in a gruelling 46 game campaign. De Ridder is expected to be a substitute on Saturday and could make the difference during the latter stages of the game, should Adkins need to change his approach.
Transfers In: Transfers Out:
Paul Rachubka (Blackpool) Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
Michael Brown (Portsmouth) Richard Naylor (Doncaster Rovers)
Andy Lonergan (Preston North End) Neil Kilkenny (Bristol City)
Bradley Johnson (Norwich City)
Despite a fine season, Leeds cannot afford to be complacent in such a ruthless league and they cannot solely rely on their attacking talents. Their 6-4 capitulation at home to bottom club Preston North End in September last year outlined their defensive frailties. The Whites have managed to keep hold of attacking talents Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass who were pivotal in their success last season. Yet key figures such as Kasper Schmeichel and Bradley Johnson have since departed, and have not been replaced as the squad looks worryingly thin. This cautious approach from the board might cost Leeds and their supporters dear.
“It’s just an area where I wanted someone with experience who can help the younger players through”.
Simon Grayson explains why he signed experienced midfielder Michael Brown.
Michael Brown has been brought in to add more bite in central midfield and will replace Bradley Johnson in central midfield. Leeds have always needed a holding midfielder that will give licence for Howson, Gradel, Snodgrass and Sam to push forward. In this attack-minded Leeds side, Brown may be urged to get forward and showed glimpses of rediscovering his goal-scoring form at Portsmouth. He netted 22 goals for Sheffield United in the 2002/03 season, and perhaps Grayson believes he can rediscover his attacking capabilities whilst providing vital defensive cover.
Tactical Battle – Where the game might be won and lost
Undoubtedly, Rickie Lambert will be the danger man for the Leeds defence. Having suffered a catalogue of injuries last season, experienced defender Patrick Kisnorbo will be handed the task of containing the prolific forward. The likes of Paul Connolly and Ben Parker will need to stay tight on wingers Adam Lallana and Guly Do Prado to stop a potential overload of crosses aimed at their target man.
Whilst Michael Brown may be assigned the task of tracking creative youngster Adam Lallana, ensuring that he doesn’t cause damage when cutting inside from the left. He will have to be disciplined in this role, and this is an area of his game that he has struggled with over the course of his career. Lallana’s trickery may be too much for Brown to deal with and it wouldn’t be surprising if he earns his first yellow card for his new club on his debut. However, it might be that Lloyd Sam doubles up on Lallana, leaving Brown to deal with a Saint’s summer signing in Jack Cork. He will hope that his experience and strength will overpower the highly rated youngster.
Expected Starting Line-Ups
D.Butterfield (RB) J.Fonte (CB) D.Seaborne (CB) D.Harding (LB)
G.Do Prado (RM) D.Hammond (CM) J.Cork (CM) A Lallana (LM)
R.Lambert (ST) D.Connolly (ST)
P.Connolly (RB) A.O’Brien (CB) P.Kisnorbo (CB) B.Parker (LB)
L.Sam (RW) M.Brown (CM) J.Howson (CM) M.Gradel (LW)
I expect Leeds to settle quickly and frustrate a nervy Southampton side in the first half. However, the wealth of attacking options that Nigel Adkins
possesses will give his side the edge during the latter stages of the game.
Southampton 2-1 Leeds United
Rickie Lambert 9/1 (Score a brace) – He scored 21 goals last season, 8 of which were penalties. The Saints had to rely on their talisman, who scored vital goals throughout the course of last season demonstrating his consistency. The odds of Lambert scoring a brace seem quite generous considering his goal-scoring record. Optimistic punters might be tempted at the 40/1 shot of Lambert netting a hat-trick.
Billy Paynter 8/1 (Last Goalscorer) –Having scored 29 goals for Swindon Town during the 2009/10 season, his move to Leeds the following season was less than successful. However, a long-term injury to Luciano Becchio might give him a second chance to shine. Ross McCormmack is expected to start on Saturday, but having scored the winner in the pre-season victory at home to Newcastle last weekend, Paynter could be worth a punt during the latter stages of the game.