Southampton - Stoke City Preview: Potters look to continue best-ever start
Stoke take on Southampton at 15:00 (GMT) on Saturday. (Image: VAVEL)

Stoke City make the long trip to the South Coast to play Southampton on Saturday looking to continue their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign.

Mark Hughes' side have claimed 16 points from 12 matches so far this season, which is their best return in the Premier League at this stage of the season.

Head-to-head

Mark Hughes will be hoping that Stoke's poor run of results at Southampton comes to an end at the St. Mary's Stadium on Saturday.

The Potters have not won a league game at Southampton since October 1980. The Police topped the charts with 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' when Stoke's 2-1 win was recorded at The Dell 35 years ago. Since then, the Potters have lost seven times and recorded three draws at Southampton.

However, four of the six Premier League meetings between the pair have been draws. Both sides have enjoyed just one win each in their last six league clashes, with both victories coming last season (both at home).

Stoke high on confidence

With four wins and just one defeat in their last six league games, Mark Hughes' side head to the St. Mary's Stadium as one of the in-form teams in the Premier League. Only this weekend's opponents and Arsenal have picked up more points from their last six fixtures.

Stoke will be buoyed by their 1-0 victory over Chelsea last time out, which was the Potters' second victory over last season's Premier League champions in 10 days after they defeated the Blues in the Capital One Cup a week before.

The Britannia Stadium has become widely known as a fortress over recent season, however this season Stoke's away form has been much better than their home form and Mark Hughes will be hoping that his side's away form continues against Southampton.

The Potters have lost just once away from home this season and that was against Arsenal in September - that match was also the last time that Stoke conceded a goal on the road. Stoke have kept a clean sheet in their last four away games in all competitions, a run which includes three 1-0 victories.

Goals, goals, goals

Goals have been difficult to come by for Stoke this season, with the Potters finding the back of the net just 10 times so far this season - the joint-lowest in the top-flight, along with Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.

However, Mark Hughes' side have been boosted by the form of Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic's return from injury, with both scoring twice in their last seven games. 

Jonathan Walters, who extended his contract at the Britannia Stadium last week, is fresh from firing Ireland to Euro 2016 and Hughes will be hoping he can reproduce that form on Saturday against Southampton.

At the other end of the pitch, only Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have conceded fewer goals than Stoke's twelve. Jack Butland has kept four clean sheets and made a league-high 50 saves so far this season.

The opposition

After a slow start to the season, Ronald Koeman's side come into this game in form, having won six of their last eight in all competitions to climb up to seventh in the Premier League.

The form of Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle in front of goal has been crucial to Southampton's recent form and the Saints have netted 19 times in 12 matches so far this season. Pelle has scored nine goals in all competitions, and four of his six league goals have come at home, while Tadic has scored five goals. Their defence has also improved over recent weeks after a patchy start to the season, with the Saints keeping back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season in their last two outings.

Southampton are unbeaten away from home during the 2015/16 campaign; however their team performances at St. Mary's have not been as strong, with the side dropping points in half of their home games this season and both of their league defeats this season have come at home..

Discipline has also been a problem in recent weeks, with Victor Wanyama and Saido Mane both receiving red cards in the last three matches, while only Sunderland have had more players booked this season.

Team news

Defender Marc Muniesa is still sidelined by a hamstring injury, while goalkeeper Shay Given also remains out as he recovers from recent knee surgery.

The Potters are otherwise at full strength, with USA defender Geoff Cameron given an extra day to recover after international duty and Erik Pieters is in contention despite breaking his nose in two places against Chelsea.

Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk is expected to face the Potters despite suffering a knee injury while on international duty with the Netherlands.

Jay Rodriguez's foot injury could need surgery but fellow forward Shane Long came through his midweek international outing unscathed following five weeks on the sidelines with an ankle problem.

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