Southampton will host a rejuvenated Swansea City side in their opening Premier League clash of the season on Saturday afternoon in what will be Mauricio Pellegrino’s first game in charge of the Saints.
The former Valencia boss will take over the reins from Claude Puel following his sacking and will undoubtedly be looking to close the 15-point gap between them and Everton in seventh last season.
Swansea City, on the contrary, will be looking for three points to get off to a good start after Paul Clement’s side narrowly clawed themselves away from relegation trouble with a late burst of form.
See below for The Boot Room’s comprehensive preview of both side’s Premier League opener.
Southampton have endured a relatively indifferent pre-season, with draws against Switzerland’s St Gallen and Championship outfit Brentford being followed by victory over Ligue 1’s Saint Etienne.
A 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Bundesliga side FC Augsburg left a sour taste in the mouth but a commanding win over Sevilla last weekend leaves the Saints with momentum ahead of Saturday.
By contrast the visitors have enjoyed a good run of results throughout their pre-season, beginning with two draws – one against MLS side Philadelphia Union – and a victory during their tour of America.
On return to England they’ve been equally impressive, seeing off Championship side Birmingham City comfortably before brushing aside Italian outfit Sampdoria 4-0 in their final pre-season outing.
Virgil van Dijk is unlikely to feature for the hosts as the speculation over his future rumbles on, meaning young Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida are expected to re-form their defensive pairing.
New record signing Mario Lemina won’t be ready to play in time but the likes of Nathan Redmond, Dusan Tadic, Manolo Gabbiadini and Oriel Romeu are all expected to start in a strong starting side.
For the visitors, Fernando Llorente is set to miss out due to a broken arm which means summer arrival Tammy Abraham – who scored three times in pre-season – is poised for his top-flight debut.
Roque Mesa – signed from La Liga’s Las Palmas – is also likely to make his competitive debut for Swansea, with Gylfi Sigurdsson kept out of the side due to his firm links with a move out of Wales.
Match Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Swansea City
It’s not exactly the most tantalising of Premier League opener for either side but it’s certainly a match which both sides will think they can win, giving them three points to kick-start the campaign.
But there’s a distinct lack of attacking threat from both sides, with Manolo Gabbiadini struggling towards the end of last year and Fernando Llorente ruled out, so goalmouth action may be sparse.
Nobody wants to begin the new Premier League season with defeat, and it could be expected that both sides cancel each other out throughout the 90 minutes and leave the pitch with a point apiece.