SAINTS kick off their Premier League season with a visit to Tottenham Hotspur, hoping to better their 15th-place finish in two consecutive league campaigns.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side face a tough test in the capital, with Champions League outfit Spurs managed by Antonio Conte and goals coming from Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.
However, Saints picked up a huge 3-2 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium back in February last season – one of the best performances and results of the Austrian’s tenure.
Hasenhuttl is left with more squad decisions to make than he had last campaign, with the addition of six summer signings to his group and only Fraser Forster and Shane Long departing.
Only Theo Walcott has not featured for the St Mary’s side in pre-season, but Nathan Tella has also been ruled out of the opening contest through injury.
Here’s how we think Hasenhuttl will line up his XI to take on Spurs…
Despite suggesting he is yet to make up his mind on his number one, Gavin Bazunu was the standout keeper during pre-season and should immediately usurp Alex McCarthy for the jersey.
The 20-year-old has excellent command of his area and ball distribution, which will be essential in Hasenhuttl’s new five/three-at-the-back shape, with pressure invited from the opposition.
Hasenhuttl will stick with his five-man setup for the visit to Spurs, with an expected centre-back trio of Jan Bednarek, Armel Bella-Kotchap and Mohammed Salisu. Only Yan Valery could come in for one of those three.
Meanwhile, Kyle Walker-Peters will start against his former side on the right-wing-back role, while Hasenhuttl admitted Romain Perraud is still progressing in his return from fitness. That could mean Moussa Djenepo is afforded a start.
This is where things get a little more interesting. Captain James Ward-Prowse is, of course, a shoo-in on the left of the midfield trio.
At the base could be Oriol Romeu, but I’m predicting Romeo Lavia after his pre-season exploits. The Spaniard could also play alongside the pair though, or the impressive new signing Joe Aribo.
Stuart Armstrong has been playing as the second striker throughout the warm-up matches and Hasenhuttl has very much enjoyed his contributions – that will continue again.
Pairing him could be his namesake and number nine, Adam Armstrong, who was the only Saints player to score twice in pre-season and will look to significantly better his contributions in his second season at the club.
Full predicted XI
Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Bednarek, Salisu, Djenepo; Lavia, Ward-Prowse, Aribo; S Armstrong, A Armstrong.
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