Southampton host manager-less Inter Milan at St.Mary’s hoping to go one better than the previous meeting between the two sides at the San Siro just two weeks ago in which the home side won 1-0 thanks to a Antonio Candreva strike.
The Saints currently sit in the automatic qualification places in Group K behind leaders Sparta Prague. However, only one point separates them from bottom of the group Inter, who will be looking to play with a new lease of life following Frank de Boer’s sacking.
Both sides enter this fixture off the back of domestic defeats, although it must be said Southampton look in better shape than their Milan based opponents, who went down 1-0 at Sampdoria.
Puel’s men lost 0-2 at home to a resurgent Chelsea side, but still find themselves in 9th position. Internazionale, after a good run of victories (including a 2-1 defeat of Juventus) in September sit in 12th position in Serie A with just one win in their last six.
Before last weekend’s defeat to Chelsea, Southampton were unbeaten in five in the league, including valiant away draws at Champions Leicester and Manchester City.
In fact, the only sides to beat Southampton domestically this season have been Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
A sluggish start to the Premier League was halted with victories over Swansea City, West Ham and Burnley which propelled Claude Puel’s side to 9th in the table from 18th.
In cup competitions, Saints fans can have no real complaints – they are through to the EFL Cup quarter final without conceding a single goal, and have acquired four points from their opening three Europa League group games – winning at home against Sparta Prague and earning a point in Israel before narrow defeat in northern Italy.
Inter Milan are unlikely to reach the heights of last season, in which they finished fourth in Serie A and reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.
Much will depend on who is appointed de Boer’s successor, but if I Nerazzurri fail to get a win in Group K soon, they will be out of the Europa League.
This may be a good thing – giving the new boss time to concentrate on domestic form, but equally a European distraction could represent exactly what is required for Inter fans.
With only one win in Group K so far (against Southampton) and just one league win throughout all of September, it is fair to say confidence must be low in camp.
Predicted line ups
Southampton predicted starting XI:
Inter Milan predicted starting XI:
Suspensions and injuries
Ryan Bertrand made his comeback against former side Chelsea at the weekend, playing for 78 minutes. This gives Puel a headache of whether to start the England international or stick with academy graduate Sam McQueen.
Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez could return to the fold, but most likely on the bench. Florin Gardos is making steady steps towards recovery, but this match will likely come too soon for the Romanian.
Gary Medel and Felipe Melo remain side lined for Inter, otherwise the Italians have a near full strength squad to choose from.
Before the sacking of Frank de Boer, one would have been more confident in predicting a home win for Southampton. However, as we so often see in football, a departing manager can be a catalyst for success – in the short term at least.
Inter still boast some very good players, and have proven they can beat the best in the business with victory over Juventus earlier this year.
Southampton have been solid, yet not spectacular so far this season, but home advantage should be enough for the Hampshire side to avoid defeat. Our prediction 1-1.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Alex Mason