BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Goals should flow during the south-coast derby

Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 8pm Friday

Derby fever is gripping Southampton with the big one against Portsmouth in the League Cup next Tuesday preceded by – and with no disrespect intended – a showdown with Bournemouth at St Mary’s.

Premier League points might be on the line on Friday and the stakes are impressive enough with third place, for a few hours at least, on offer for the victor.

But this is a mere hors d’oeuvre for Saints’ fans, a tasty appetiser ahead of a first trip to Fratton Park in eight years where a real south-coast rivalry will be reignited.

For the players and management, however, none of whom have experienced a Saints-Pompey dust-up, that can wait. First things first is taking care of the Cherries in a match which is seriously tricky to call – but does promise goals.

The reason it’s not straightforward is because both sides are so unreliable and inconsistent.

History suggests the draw – four of the last five tussles between these two have ended all-square – is a sensible option but it’s not an outcome you could put up with any great degree of confidence.

Here’s the bottom line: Southampton are unbeaten in four in all competitions and have taken seven points from five matches.

Their two wins came away, at Brighton and Sheffield United, both of whom ended with ten men. Brighton played over an hour against Saints with a man fewer.

They accrued the extra point in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United, where the performance was more than decent.

Bournemouth also have seven points thanks to wins were against Aston Villa and Everton and a draw with Sheffield United.

The Cherries are yet to keep a clean sheet which will surprise no one who watches them regularly. Last season they conceded too many goals and they remain fragile at the back.

Going forward Eddie Howe is overflowing with options to the extent that Ryan Fraser was omitted against Everton last week, Dominic Solanke recalled and Josh King stuck out wide. And it worked a treat.

Bournemouth always look like scoring goals although Saints' three-man defence is pretty solid especially with Oriol Romeu back to his best and full of confidence patrolling in front.

Southampton also have pace further forward but Hasenhuttl is praying Nathan Redmond is fully fit after young flier and Bramall Lane match-winner Moussa Djenepo was ruled out.

Their record at home, however, is pretty lousy – only one home clean sheet in the past 11 months – while Bournemouth appear to be improving on the road where they have won three of their last seven.

It was 3-3 when these two met at Southampton last season and another belter looks on the cards.

Best bet
Over 3.5 goals

The Football Site

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