Weblog: The football punter

Southampton can sink poor travellers Brighton

Premier League
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Southampton have already beaten Brighton once this season and they can repeat the trick when the sides meet at St Mary's.

That 1-0 League Cup success at Brighton mattered little in the grand scheme of things as Southampton's reserves overcame a similarly much-changed Albion, although Saints followed that with a far more impressive display to land a 2-0 triumph at Crystal Palace.

Southampton's success needs an asterisk in the formguide as Palace were without their talisman Wilfried Zaha, yet few could deny Saints ran out worthy winners and they could even afford to see Charlie Austin fluff his lines from the penalty spot.

The balance of the Saints' side has looked better in recent times with the switch to a back four and the signing of Danny Ings from Liverpool could be enough to keep them away from a repeat of last season's relegation scrap.

Saints were poor in both penalty areas last season as they failed to buy a striker and then blundered in their handling of centre-back Virgil van Dijk's transfer saga, although on expected points Southampton were still ninth-best in the Premier League despite their league position of 17th.

Expected goals suggests that Southampton left nearly 13 points they should have earned on the table and the arrival of Ings, who has two goals in his three starts, and centre-back Jannick Vestergaard should eventually make the difference where it counts most - in both boxes.

Southampton must start improving at home - they have won just one of their last 13 at St Mary's - although that is countered by Brighton's equally appalling record on the road.

Albion have gone 15 without victory on their Premier League travels since successive triumphs at West Ham and Swansea, the last of those coming in early November.

Eleven of the 15 trips ended in defeat and Brighton scored in only four of them.

Chris Hughton's men have registered only two shots on target in their two away matches this term, although those matches were at fast-starting pair Watford and Liverpool so maybe there will be a more positive approach for this journey along the A27.

However, any attempts to become more adventurous may lead to Brighton being more vulnerable defensively, and they have already conceded seven times in the Premier League this season.

Hughton has been reluctant to give playing time to his summer signings, preferring in the main to stick by those who kept the club in the division, but it is Albion's home form which could decide their top-flight fate.

Manchester United have already been stuffed at the Amex, although Albion tend to go into their shell in away encounters.


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Match in Focus

20:00 Mo 21Jan SKY

Bolton v West Brom

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Key stats
  • West Brom have won four of their last five league aways
Expert verdict
Bolton’s financial difficulties are not going to help them in their battle to avoid the drop and they could be outclassed by West Brom. Toiling Bolton have failed to score in four of their last six league matches while the Baggies are the league’s leading scorers with 55 goals in 27 games.