Weblog: The football punter

Southampton and West Ham can bang in goals

Sky Sports Premier League/Main Event, 7.45pm Thursday

Ralph Hasenhuttl has brought some festive fun to Southampton and his Saints side could be involved in a Christmas cracker against West Ham at St Mary's.

Southampton are favourites to make it three wins on the spin as they aim to build on victories over Arsenal and Huddersfield, although a better bet could be to take both teams to score in a match featuring over 2.5 goals.

There can be no question that there is renewed confidence around Southampton, who look more energetic and enthusiastic under Hasenhuttl than they did at virtually any stage of Mark Hughes's dour reign.

The ace Austrian coach is a man with a plan and the players have lapped up the extra training sessions, knowing that the punishing exercises are being put on to help them adapt to Hasenhuttl's high-pressing tactics.

Attacking midfielder Stuart Armstrong said after Saturday's 3-1 win at Huddersfield: "We're all working in the same direction. We all know what each other is doing, and where we are running and why we are running."

Danny Ings, scorer of two goals against Arsenal, followed that with another against Huddersfield and must be happy to see Armstrong and the rejuvenated Nathan Redmond keeping him company in advanced positions in a much more positive starting 11.

However, there is still a long way to go and Hasenhuttl may have been helped by the fixtures.

Arsenal were severely depleted by injuries and suspensions and Huddersfield have arguably the worst attack in the Premier League so the former Leipzig boss will be fully aware that a team struggling at the wrong end of the table for the past 18 months cannot be expected to become class acts almost overnight.

Saints are eight Premier League matches without a clean sheet, possibly as a consequence of the continued absence of first-choice full-backs or wing-backs Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares.

Neither is certain to return against the Hammers while key midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is a definite non-runner due to suspension.

West Ham know all about having players missing with between six and ten of their squad sidelined depending on whether the medical staff are able to aid Fabian Balbuena and Javier Hernandez, who were both injured in Saturday's 2-0 loss to Watford.

The Hammers created plenty of chances in that game and are likely to do so again with Ryan Snodgrass and Felipe Anderson on the wings for a team whose expected-goals figure was over two against Watford.

Before that West Ham had scored 11 in four games but they still have a negative goal difference after conceding 27 times in 18 fixtures.

Both teams to score and over 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus


Paraguay v Qatar

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Qatar have kept six clean sheets in their last eight games
Expert verdict
Paraguay have struggled recently and enter the Copa America with only Sunday’s friendly victory over minnows Guatemala to show for their efforts since October 2017. Qatar are no mugs – they had won seven matches in a row before losing 2-0 to Brazil earlier this month – and can claim victory.