Southampton vs Burnley Preview: First goal could be crucial at St Mary's

Only five teams have scored less goals than both of these teams in the Premier League this season.

Southampton vs Burnley Preview: First goal could be crucial at St Mary's
Southampton will look to keep the ball on the floor against the aerial threat of Southampton (Photo: Getty Images / Oli Scarff)

With just nine goals apiece in ten Premier League teams, Southampton against Burnley could be an early contender for the graveyard slot on Match of Day.

Yet both sides sit in the top half of the table and boast rigid defences that can only be matched by the top three and Newcastle United in terms of the number of goals conceded.

Romeu against Hendrick will be a key battle

Southampton's style of play is contrasting to that of Burnley. With an average possession percentage of 56.9%, the Saints have seen more of the ball than all but four teams this campaign. Oriol Romeu tends to dictate play and has made 720 passes, the eleventh most in the Premier League. With 27 tackles to his name (eighth in the top flight), the Spaniard is a critical cog in the Southampton wheel.

However, Romeu will be faced by one of the form players in the Premier League in Jeff Hendrick. The Republic of Ireland international scored the winner against Everton and Newcastle United, whilst also creating a critical goal for his country in their vital World Cup qualifier against Wales last month. Playing in an attacking midfield role, he is allowed an element of freedom in a rigid defensive unit for Burnley.

 

Possession football against aerial domination

With a lowly average of just 0.9 chances per game created by Southampton, they will face a tough task to break down their visitors. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee are only matched by Lewis Dunk in terms of the number of blocks and their protective shield, Jack Cork, has made more than any other midfielder.

The central defensive pairing have also made more clearances than all but Shane Duffy and have won the third and fourth most aerial duels. Duffy and Christian Benteke lead them in this area.

With the passing ability of Romeu and creative flair of Dusan Tadic and Sofiane Boufal, the hosts are unlikely to play many aerial passes. However, it is that part of the game that could prove pivotal to potential success for the visitors.

Chris Wood faces a late fitness test but Sam Vokes could start with both players also in the top 20 for aerial duels won. Virgil van Dijk will be critical to trying to cut off that channel and keep the Clarets at bay.

Home win again?

History sits in the favour of the home side in this fixture. In their four previous Premier League games, the home side have picked up three points in every contest and Southampton have won their last four games in all competitions they have hosted the Clarets.

However, they will have to continue that run without Jeremy Pied and Mario Lemina, although Charlie Austin is available after a slight knock.

Burnley are without Jon Walters, Tom Heaton and Dean Marney but Sean Dyche could be posed a question up front. His options appear to be between Vokes and Ashley Barnes, though Wood will be pushing for a place if he can prove his fitness.