Teams at opposite ends of the Premier League soccer table meet when Southampton host Leicester City at the St Mary’s Stadium on Friday (3pm ET).
Only goal difference separates Southampton from the bottom three after two wins, two draws and five defeats from their matches to date. Leicester, in contrast, are riding high in third with a reversed record of five wins, two draws and two defeats.
Saints come into the fixture on the back of a 1-1 draw away to Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend. Danny Ings gave them the lead early into the second half, only for their hosts to swiftly equalize. The result extended their winless run in the league to four matches and they are also yet to record victory in four fixtures on home soil this season.
The club were hoping to enjoy a more comfortable campaign this time around after two seasons plagued by relegation concerns. With a full pre-season to work with his squad, head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl was expected to build on the progress made after he replaced Mark Hughes midway through last season and usher them much closer to the middle of the table.
The reality has been different. While there has been a degree of improvement in the team’s underlying numbers, it hasn’t been matched by top-line figures and results. Southampton have the third-worst defensive record in the division and the sixth-worst attack. If they continue to accumulate points at their current rate of around one per match, another relegation battle is the most probable outcome.
Things are likely to improve. Their underlying numbers do look more like those of a mid-table side, while their fixture list to date has done them few favors, pitting them against four of last season’s top six across their opening nine matches. They might not do so on Friday given the excellent start Leicester have made to the campaign.
Prior to the start of the season, Leicester were viewed, alongside the likes of Wolves, Everton and West Ham, as a team with the potential to challenge for a top-six finish. Indeed, they probably looked the most likely of that group to do so, with a good, young set of players, solid underlying numbers and no European football to stretch their squad.
They certainly look prime contenders now after a good run of early-season results that they extended with a 2-1 win at home to Burnley last weekend. The visitors took the lead midway through the first half, but after Jamie Vardy’s equalizer on the stroke of half time, Youri Tielemans fired home in the 74th minute to give Leicester all three points.
Despite a fixture list that, like Southampton’s, has already seen them face four of last season’s top six, Leicester have taken 17 points from their first nine games. They have the fourth-best attack and third-best defence in the division.
There are still a few question marks. Brendan Rodgers has shown himself to be a pretty adaptable coach, but there is an underlining conservatism within him that occasionally seems to shackle his side. Leicester produced an impressive performance (albeit one saved by a very close VAR offside call against their opponents) in their home win over Tottenham Hotspur in September with a more expansive lineup that has not since been repeated.
A combination of their good results and the struggles endured by some of the settled top-six occupants, including Spurs, have even begun to open up the possibility of Leicester going one better than the top six and getting into the top four. Pre-season, one statistical model gave them a 10% chance of doing so. That has now shot up to 26%. The US offshore bookmakers odds give an implied probability of nearly 31%.
Our Betting Preview’s Southampton vs. Leicester Predictions & Picks Verdict
If Leicester are to remain in the race for the top four, this Friday match is the sort of one they need to be winning. They have won away to Southampton in each of the last two seasons, including a 4-1 win in December 2017 and can again be fancied to take all three points away from this new trip to the south coast.
- Bet on Leicester to win @ best odds of +133 on the moneyline with BetOnline.