Fulham is flying high after a big win, but entering a difficult stretch. If they manage two points in their next four league matches and a win in the Capital One Cup, I'd be ecstatic. If they are to do that, this is one of the easier fixtures to get a result from (not that it's easy by any means).
CC: Since I'm in the US, I've only seen Southampton when they were matched up with the bigger clubs. In those games, Pochettino has seemed to play a quite aggressive pressing style. That has seemed to throw those teams for a loop as they seem to expect more of a bunker and counter strategy from small clubs. Does Pochettino employ the same basic strategy against the smaller clubs?
Go Marching In: In a nutshell, yes. Whether we're playing a 'big' or 'small' team the basic approach is the same: press the opposition as high up the pitch as possible. It's a risky way to play because you're committing so many players forward, but it has its benefits too. By forcing the opposition backwards whilst they are in possession, you increase the distance that the ball is from your own goal at the same time.
Against more defensively-minded teams there isn't as much pressing because we tend to have more possession. We do tend to find it harder to play against teams with that mentality and we will definitely need to find a way to break down teams that park the bus if we have any hope of finishing in the top ten this season.
CC: The club is having a great run, and now there's talk of top six finishes and qualifying for Europe. Given the financial fair play regulations kicking in and how much money the club has already spent, do you believe this is a realistic expectation? Or do you feel that being a stable top ten club with occasional seasons where things break right is a better goal to shoot for?
GMI: Quite a few people have mocked Southampton players for talking about Champions League football, but personally I would be worried if my players didn't aspire to play at the highest level. By setting your goals higher you make lesser goals easier to achieve.
Whilst I think the Southampton squad doesn't have enough strength in depth to maintain a top six position once injuries and suspensions start to creep in, I do think it'll mean that we should be able to finish in the top ten regularly.
If we can keep hold of our best players and continue to bring in players who will add to what we already have, then there is no reason why we can't be looking at European qualification each season.
However, as you have correctly pointed out, just how much more money we can spend within the financial fair play regulations remains to be seen.
CC: Southampton's academy if fairly famous for the quality of players they have produced, and you have some promising youngsters in the squad. Fulham is attempting to launch a first class academy as a way to be sustainable (going so far as to poach a lot of the Southampton staff). The Fulham academy hasn't really produced any first team players yet, but the young squads are full of promise. What is the current state of the Southampton academy, and can we expect to continue to see the pipeline of young players?
GMI: The Southampton academy continues to go from strength to strength, with the recent record breaking transfer of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid only adding to its reputation.
Costing over 2 million pounds a year to run and with the Staplewood training ground currently undergoing a 15 million pound revamp, chairman Nicola Cortese has thrown his full support behind the academy and club training facilities.
The latest graduates - Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Calum Chambers - have successfully made the transition into the first team squad. Whilst manager Mauricio Pochettino is using the League Cup to give valuable experience to the next crop of youngsters. There are certainly no signs of the production line stopping any time soon!
Key players, projected lineup, and score prediction
Ward-Prowse (Steven Davis is doubtful)
Prediction: 2-0 home win.
Players to watch:
As we've talked about the Southampton academy it's only fitting that I focus on the graduates:
Captain Adam Lallana has been with the club since he was 12 and is in fantastic form at the moment. His trickery is fantastic to watch and he'll work his socks off.
Eighteen year old Luke Shaw continues to be linked with the likes of Manchester United, which isn't surprising considering how comfortable he looks playing at this level.
James Ward-Prowse recently scored his first goal for the England U19s and if he plays he'll take all of our set pieces (the ones that Rickie Lambert doesn't want, anyway!).