Southampton V Man City at St. Mary's Stadium : Match Preview
Southampton V Man City - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Nothing's changed for Pochettino
A run of three successive defeats and an ever-mounting injury list is hardly the best preparation for taking on Manchester City, yet Mauricio Pochettino is confident Southampton can enjoy an upturn in fortunes against the title hopefuls.
Saints began the season as the toast of English football, with their blend of home-grown talent and big-money signings impressing in an attractive, high-tempo style.
Not only that, they were also getting results and could have gone top of the Barclays Premier League with victory at Arsenal two weeks ago.
However, Saints have slumped to eighth after a run of three successive defeats and now face the unenviable task of attempting to thwart in-form City.
That challenge has been made all the more difficult by injuries picked up by Victor Wanyama and Nathaniel Clyne in the midweek defeat to Aston Villa, swelling the possible first-team absentees for the game to eight.
"I believe that every game is a test, not just against Manchester City," the Argentinian said ahead of Saturday's match. "Every single game is a very large test for us.
"It is clear that we picked up some injuries against Aston Villa that we did not have in the past, but nothing has changed within this team.
"This team still believes, it still believes in how we play, and what a great chance for us to go and invert this negative run we are on in front of our fans in a great stadium. This is a very good chance for us to change our fortunes right now."
Such positivity will surprise many onlookers given some of the names on Southampton's injury list.
Wanyama and Clyne are joined on the sidelines by Morgan Schneiderlin, Guly do Prado and Danny Fox, while Jose Fonte, so impressive at centre-back alongside Dejan Lovren, is a doubt.
Third-choice goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga will again deputise in goal as Artur Boruc fractured his hand last week and back-up Kelvin Davis is struggling with a side injury.
It makes a result like February's 3-1 defeat of City - the first victory of Pochettino's reign - look a tough ask, yet he is confident in the strength in depth at his disposal.
The Saints boss has already named 12 players from the youth system in the matchday squad this season and believes harnessing young talent will be key moving forwards.
"I am confident that we can overcome this bad run that we are on," Pochettino said. "That is what we are working for.
"The project in Southampton is to mix very young players with a lot more experienced players.
"This is a big test for us right now and it also gives us a good chance to bring some of the younger players, such as Harrison Reed, Sam Gallagher, Cody Cropper, Matt Targett, Will Britt.
"It is a very good experience for them to be in the mix with more veteran players in the senior side. It is a very good chance for us to execute that plan to bring younger players into the side."
Most of those young players will only make up the numbers for now, with Adam Lallana, James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers the only academy graduates likely to start against City.
It is a match that not only gives Saints the chance to get back on track, but for former Espanyol manager Pochettino to get one over on old foe Manuel Pellegrini, a man he knows well from his time in Spain.
"I have many memories of having faced Manuel Pellegrini in La Liga, when he was Villarreal, Malaga and Real Madrid," he said.
"I even knew him when I was with Under-18s in Argentina. He was managing the Chile Under-20s some 25 years ago.
"I have great respect for him. I wouldn't say that we were friends, but we have a great working relationship and he is someone I admire. We have a very good professional relationship."
Pellegrini insists the Barclays Premier League results in midweek have not changed which sides are, and are not, in the title race.
While City, leaders Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham all won on Wednesday, champions Manchester United suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Everton.
The Red Devils are now ninth in the table, 12 points behind the Gunners, with all teams in the division having played 14 games.
It does not look promising for United's hopes of defending their crown, but Pellegrini thinks the title battle remains "exactly the same".
Asked about Wednesday's results and if he thought United were now out of the race, Pellegrini - whose side triumphed 3-2 at West Brom - said: "It was an important game for us, winning the three points away.
"I think the fight for the Premier League is exactly the same. There are eight or nine teams that are very close in points.
"For us, it is very important to continue winning.
"But we have five more games to complete the first half (of the season) and then we have all the second half."
Pellegrini was speaking at a press conference to preview Saturday's top-flight visit to Southampton.
Prior to the West Brom result, City - who are third, six points behind Arsenal - had won only one of six Premier League away games in 2013-14, losing four of them.
Beating Albion was certainly a boost ahead of the Saints trip, although Pellegrini has stressed that even prior to the match at The Hawthorns, there had been no issues with his players' confidence regarding their ability to secure victories on the road.
"I think that before the West Brom game, we didn't have any problems psychologically about winning away," the Chilean said.
"Maybe you think there is a different reason, but I was absolutely sure it was just about the points - not tactical problems, and I am also sure the squad had the confidence.
"We were sure we were going to start winning. So then that (West Brom) was first, and now we must repeat it tomorrow."
Eighth-placed Southampton go into the encounter off the back of three straight defeats - a notable run of results in the tenure of Pochettino as their manager.
The 41-year-old Argentinian, who previously coached in Spain at the same time as Pellegrini, has done an impressive job overall since succeeding Nigel Adkins in January.
Southampton beat City 3-1 at St Mary's shortly after that appointment and Wednesday's 3-2 reverse against Aston Villa was the Saints' first home defeat this term.
Pellegrini does not know how Pochettino's men will react on Saturday, but sees it as a dangerous thing that they are hurting from a succession of losses.
The 60-year-old said of his fellow south American: "I know him very well. He is a very good manager and I think he is doing a great job with Southampton - he also did in Spain.
"I am sure we are playing against a strong team.
"I think playing against a team as good as Southampton, when they have lost the last three games, will be more difficult for us.
"I don't know what the reaction of Southampton will be. They are a young team, and they have a young manager.
"But he knows perfectly how he must manage this situation."
Pellegrini is optimistic City captain Vincent Kompany will be fine to keep his place in the team for Saturday's match.
The Belgium defender, who has been sidelined by a thigh problem, made his first appearance since October 5 on Wednesday when he played for the whole of the West Brom contest.
Regarding Kompany, Pellegrini said: "We will see if he can play two matches in less than three days. But he is okay.
"It is not an easy decision. But I think he finished the last game without any problem.
"We will wait to see that he has made the perfect recovery and I will decide. But I don't think it is a great risk for him to play another game."
Striker Stevan Jovetic, defender Matija Nastasic and playmaker David Silva will all miss out due to their calf injuries, but Pellegrini has indicated the latter of the trio could be involved in Tuesday's Champions League match at Bayern Munich.
The manager once again would not confirm whether Costel Pantilimon would be retained in goal or Joe Hart brought back in his place.
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