Opening their Premier League campaign this Sunday, Southampton and Burnley will both look to get their 2018/19 seasons off on the right foot with a win. With both sides coming off of solid transfer windows, this match could provide both sets of supporters with a preview of what they may expect from both clubs during the rest of the Premier League season.
An Early Season Test
While matches against the big six are normally the main test that clubs face during the campaign, this match presents both clubs with a true early season test. Both Southampton and Burnley have aspirations for European qualification this season, meaning this match is the perfect chance for both to test themselves against similar quality opposition.
For Burnley, this match also serves as their first test of the league season. Having already played in three Europa League matches so far this Summer, Burnley will enter this match in form. However, given the fact that their last match at İstanbul Başakşehir was only on Thursday, one must question whether or not fatigue will begin to set in for this Clarets side.
Southampton however, enter this match following an extremely topsy-turvy pre-season. Despite winning matches against French side Dijon and Spanish club Celta Vigo, Southampton only struggled mightily at times, suffering 3-0 defeats to both Derby County and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Given these struggles, Saints will definitely be looking to get their Premier League season off on the right foot with a win at home.
Suffering from an extremely lacklustre attack over the last two campaigns, Southampton will want to be on the front foot from the get-go in this match. With Burnley playing their standard defensive first game, Southampton will need to work extremely hard in order to break down the Clarets backline in this contest.
This responsibility will likely fall onto the shoulders of either Charlie Austin or Manolo Gabbiadini. Depending on how Saints lineup for this contest, the side may feature one or two strikes from the get-go. Playing either alone or in tandem up top, Austin and Gabbiadini will need to find a way to convert the chances that they do receive.
Also likely to play an important role in this match will be Mohamed Elyounoussi. The main creator in this Southampton first team, Saints will look to Elyounoussi in the attack, hoping that he can find success when attempting to create chances for the players up top. Should he succeed, Saints chances of a victory in this match will rise dramatically.
Coming off their 0-0 draw this past Thursday night against İstanbul Başakşehir, Burnley will once again be looking to maintain a clean sheet in their first match of the Premier League campaign. While the responsibility of this will mainly lie with the Clarets backline, Joe Hart will also need to do his part in goal for Burnley to earn any points out of this match.
Allowing 62 goals during his one-season on-loan at Torino during the 2016/17 season, Hart did not fare much better upon his return to the Premier League last season. Playing on-loan for West Ham, Hart allowed 39 goals in just 19 games for the Hammers. These extremely high goal totals also go along with a number of mental mistakes that Hart suffered over his time at both clubs.
Joining Burnley this Summer, Hart will be looking to recover any semblance of the keeper he once was. Depending on which Joe Hart we see in this contest, Burnley will either be looking at a solid points haul from their opening game or a dreadful performance that could set the tone for the remainder of the campaign.
Opening the Premier League season at home, Southampton will need to break some recent history if they wish to open their campaign with a win. Having failed to defeat Burnley during their last three league matches, Saints will also enter the match having failed to win the match every time they have opened the season on a Sunday.
Burnley, on the other hand, have already taken two away draws in their two competitive away matches this season (1-1 at Aberdeen; 0-0 at İstanbul Başakşehir). The Clarets also enter the match with a winning record against Southampton manager Mark Hughes, having suffered only one defeat against the Englishman during his managerial career.
However, with all that said, Southampton will enter the match with the home advantage. While the club’s record at home over the last few seasons has been less than spectacular, the crowd at St. Mary’s should give Saints just enough of an advantage to earn a draw from this match.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Burnley
View the original article on Last Word On Football: Match Preview: Southampton v Burnley