The last time Southampton and Watford last met in the Premier League things were very different. Both sides had different managers; the Saints were under the guidance of new Everton boss Ronald Koeman, whilst the Hornets were managed by the immaculately groomed Quique Sanchez Flores.
Watford were also above Southampton in the Premier League, but differing form in 2016 led to Saints finishing sixth as the Hertfordshire club slumping to thirteenth. Now it is up for Claude Puel to attempt to keep Southampton that high up the league, as new boss Walter Mazzarri will look to keep Watford in the top flight for another season. Saturday will be the first time we see both new look teams in action.
With new managers coming in for both sides, there is very little examples of how each team is going to play on the opening day. Pre-season is the only indicator thus far, but these results and performances are far from an exact reflection of how each team will shape up.
Southampton’s pre-season was excellent, though, winning five and drawing one of their six games. Their last result was a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, where an almost fully strength squad dispatched the Spanish club. They have looked in very good shape all summer.
Watford haven’t looked so hot, though, losing to Queens Park Rangers and drawing to French side Lorient, most recently, alongside two wins and a draw against lowly opposition. As much as it is not a reliable indicator, Watford have yet to suggest they are ready for the rigours of a Premier League campaign.
Southampton have, one again, lost plenty of names, with Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane departing, but the core of the side that was so successful last season is still intact, with the addition of Nathan Redmond replacing the Senegalese winger Mane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg coming in in midfield.
Watford have added the likes of Isaac Success, Jerome Sinclair, Juan Zuniga and Brice Dja Djedje, but their first eleven should remain much the same for the new season.
Southampton predicted starting XI Watford predicted starting XI
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Ryan Bertrand has a knock and will be unavailable to Claude Puel, whilst Florin Gardos absence continues with a long standing knee problem. Meanwhile, Watford look fresh for the game, although new signings Isaac Success and Brice Dja Djedje are slight concerns ahead of the fixture.
First games are notoriously hard to predict, especially with two new managers involved, but the safest bet here is to go for a Southampton win. Puel represents a natural progression from the Koeman days, and their squad currently looks a step above Watford’s. Their superior midfield should be able to fashion more chances, whilst the pace of Long will stretch the Hornets defence. Deeney and Ighalo will cause problems as always, but it won’t be enough to secure a win for Watford.