Weekend Premeir League
Four of the top six clubs in the Premiership table are in action tomorrow, including surprise package Southampton, who bid to further enhance their rapidly growing reputation by taking all three points against Swansea in a fascinating clash at St Mary’s Stadium.
Southampton fans must be pinching themselves when they look at the table and see their team rubbing shoulders with the country’s elite clubs. Up till now, the big moment in their history came back in 1976 when they slew Manchester United in the FA Cup Final and yet here they are now, six places above the serial champions and looking to climb even higher.
Languishing in Division One as recently as 2011, Southampton’s revival has owed much to managers Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino, who have in turn helped provide the impetus to push the Saints ever higher up the ladder.
A European place is one of Pochettino’s main aims this season and it will be interesting to see how they measure up tomorrow against Swansea, who themselves have made such fantastic strides against the odds in recent years under progressive managers Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup, that they are now playing – and winning – on the European stage.
Swansea haven’t started the Premiership campaign as well as Southampton, but had a series of tough opening fixtures and there will probably be less than seven places between them when it all settles down.
This might well end up as a draw (9/4) and, attractive as both sides are, recent evidence suggests there might not be many goals in it; Southampton have conceded just one goal at home this season and Swansea just one goal on their travels. Coral go 11/2 it finishes 1-1 and 11/1 it’s goalless.
Spurs (4/9) fans are almost as cock-a-hoop as Arsenal’s just now and will be confident of another three points against West Ham (6/1) at White Hart Lane.
A team that can afford to leave out a striker of Jermain Defoe’s calibre has to be taken very seriously as title contenders, but they have to win games like this if they are to maintain their challenge.
West Ham have underwhelmed so far this season and currently lie just a place above the relegation zone. It could get worse before it gets better, too – Manchester City are up next.
Jose Mourinho, off-field dramas aside, seems to have Chelsea (4/7) settling into a decent rhythm now after a stuttering start to the campaign and they look set for their first away victory of the season at Norwich (5/1), where they haven’t lost for almost 20 years.
The Canaries’ win at Stoke last weekend lifted them clear of the relegation zone (at least for the time being), but Chelsea, with Samuel Eto’o probably replacing Fernado Torres up front, will be a much different proposition.