It appears Saints could in for a long night against Manchester City, whose form has them at the top of the Premier League — and with their scoring ability, Southampton doesn’t want to get into a track meet.
We caught up with SB Nation colleague Renato Silva Gonclaves of Bitter and Blue to get the lowdown on what Southampton should expect to see.
St Mary’s Musings: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work with the Bitter and Blue, as well as any upcoming projects.
I am the Managing Editor, which is just a fancy title. I'm just a normal person who happens to be a huge City fan and gets to write about the team he loves, so that's pretty cool. I'm Brazilian, too, which gives me a bit of a different perspective on things. I also write about Barcelona at Barça Blaugranes, another SB Nation site, and that's basically what I do.
SMM: Manchester City has an eight point lead at the top of the table -- Was this sort of start expected at the start of the year?
To be honest, yes. I saw very good things from the team in the final weeks of the season, and the transfer window was perfect. We addressed all the problems from last season and with a full year of Pep Ball in the team, I was confident we'd play good football and win more games than we did at the start of last season. Of course I'm surprised that we have an 8-point lead after just 13 games, but Pep teams usually start pretty strong in the league, and given this is now a real Pep Team this strong start is certainly not shocking.
SMM: Do you consider it curtains on the Premier League title?
Nah, still a long way to go. It's an eight-point lead with 75 points still to play, so that clearly means things are not over yet. We're in a great position, but we're Typical City for a reason.
SMM: What threat does Manchester United still pose to your bid for another league title?
They have a great team and if they win the Derby next week, things will get really interesting. Their injured players are coming back and Mourinho takes personal pride in taking down a Pep Guardiola side, so he'll no doubt fight until the end. If we win the Derby, though, then it'll be REALLY tough for United and any other team.
SMM: There were summer transfer window rumours about City being interested in Virgil van Dijk? Still interested so we don’t have to see him go to Liverpool? And would he fit into Pep Guardiola’s system?
I think the rumors were a lot of outside noise without no real interest from Pep. Van Dijk is a ridiculously good center-back, but we have John Stones as our future star in that position. Bringing in Van Dijk would not help his development since we also have Nico Otamendi (who's playing incredible stuff right now) and Vincent Kompany (when he's available). I understand Saints fans don't want him at Liverpool, but I don't think City is a realistic destination for him. If we lose Kompany for the rest of the season, which is possible, we may go for Van Dijk but unless some big injury hits the defense I don't see us throwing big money at Virgil. Sorry.
SMM: Sergio Aguero is already a prolific Premier League striker and Gabriel Jesus is on a similar path -- What is different about the two forwards and can Jesus have the same success as Aguero?
Agüero is a lot more clinical in front of goal than Jesus, but Gabriel offers a lot more in terms of buildup play, movement and work rate. They complement each other perfectly, which is why they can play together when need be. Jesus will be a superstar in the near future, but for that to happen he needs to be the main striker. So when Agüero starts to decline or starts to get injured all the time again, then we may see Gabriel taking his spot and becoming the undisputed first striker. It's not bad to have the two on fire right now, though.
SMM: Everyone knows the sort of player Kevin De Bruyne is, but what is it like to watch him match after match and do you still get ‘wowed’ by the things he does?
I am absolutely not comparing the two, but De Bruyne has reached a level that I thought only Lionel Messi could: when greatness is taken for granted. De Bruyne is so good that any "mediocre" performance from him is better than any other midfielder on Earth, and that's insane to me. He can do everything and he can take over a game whenever he wants to, and the way he impacts the game goes beyond just his otherwordly passing ability. He's our best player, without a doubt. It's an absolute joy to see him play every three days.
SMM: Way back when in August, Everton poached two points from you lot. What is City’s weakness that teams could exploit?
I think the formula is pretty simple against Pep Guardiola teams: hit them on the counter. But to do that you have to take the ball away from City, and that's the hard part. If you can, though, you'll find a lot of space behind the center-backs to attack. You'll have very limited opportunities to do that, so being clinical is imperative.
SMM: Which player on City should Southampton be most dreading on Wednesday?
Um... all of them? Just kidding, but maybe not. But I'll say David Silva. It's crazy, but he's gone under the radar in the last few weeks. I think he might shine in this one.
SMM: Who on Saints will City fans be worried about?
Dusan Tadic. I personally love him, and he's the closest thing Saints have to a Kevin De Bruyne. I'm not joking, I personally rate him that highly.
SMM: Finally, a prediction?
3-1 to the Blues. It'll be a tough 90 minutes, but at the moment it's just really, really hard to stop us, especially at the Etihad. Sorry!
We would like to thank Renato for his time! You can follow Bitter and Blue on Twitter @Bitter_and_Blue.