Southampton must get midfield pairing right against Manchester City

Oriol Romeu has been tenacious all season-long, providing exceptionally timed tackles and interceptions in front of Southampton’s back four. But when we take on Manchester City, Romeu will be serving the second of a two-match ban. Can our midfield contain the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva?

Should Pierre-Emile Højbjerg replace Steven Davis? Højbjerg is certainly a gifted and intelligent footballer, coming to Southampton by way of Bayern Munich. He has an all-around game, and he is capable of making timely interceptions as well as spraying long balls to surging wingers. Højbjerg was superb against West Brom, reaching an 88 percent pass completion, winning two aerial duels and two tackles.

Steven Davis, while not perhaps possessing the technical ability of PEH, may be be able to provide senior leadership and stability in a game against one of the strongest sides in the Premier League. It should also be noted that Davis performed very well in Southampton’s victory against a dangerous Crystal Palace, providing an assist for Nathan Redmond.

Ultimately, Claude Puel may decide to give the nod to Højbjerg in order for him to gain experience in relatively low-stakes contest versus a top-quality side. But if the Dane is to find success on the pitch come Saturday, he will need assistance from Jordy Clasie.

Clasie, like Højbjerg, had an outstanding match against the Baggies, scoring a fantastic goal from outside the box. He managed an 84 percent pass completion and made three tackles. In this particular match, though, Southampton had the majority of possession, taking pressure off of the midfield pair of Clasie and Højbjerg. This will surely not be the case against Pep Guardiola’s Man City.

Expect Guardiola’s men to play with their usual, possession-based style, with David Silva pulling the strings in between the lines. City’s players, especially their attackers, play with fluidity and intricacy. Southampton’s defensive midfielders will need to display a strong sense of positional awareness to contain their movement.

City will almost certainly have their chances against our defence, but their own defence has had issues all season long. There will be opportunities for Southampton to penetrate and create chances on the counter, and if Gabbiadini is to return, his exceptional movement will pose many problems for a young John Stones and returning Vincent Kompany.

If Southampton are to come away from this contest with more than a draw, our midfield pairing must be at their very best. The recent form of Højbjerg and Clasie suggests they should start this Saturday at Saint Mary’s–these lads are more than up for the challenge.

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