Saints can edge a low-scoring affair in the Czech Republic on Thursday night.
AC Sparta Praha v Southampton – Thursday 18:00, BT Sport Europe
This clash sees the top two teams in Group K go head-to-head in the Czech capital for a game that could see a big swing in momentum towards Southampton if they can come away with a win. Sparta Praha currently lead the group on nine points, but with their squad decimated by injury, Southampton will back themselves to win this game and go top of the group.
Southampton’s form this year has been fairly average: this weekend’s draw against Liverpool was hard-fought and credible, but defeats by Hull and Chelsea have taken the wind out of their sails of late, and they’ve failed to score in their last three away European games (including qualifiers). Tadic’s broken nose ruled him out of the Liverpool clash, and he may sit out again on Thursday, but Gardos, Targett and Pied are definitely sidelined. For the hosts, a midfield injury crisis sees Vacha, Sural, Cermack, Rosicky and Frydek out of contention, meaning that their options going forward will be seriously limited.
In the last 14 games that English sides have played away against Czech opponents in group or knockout stages of European tournaments since 2000/01 they’ve gone W9-D4-L1, and in eight of the nine most recent games in that run, the Czech hosts have failed to get on the scoresheet. Given this record and the hosts’ injury issues, the Southampton win to nil looks attractive at 3.3.
However, we’re going for Southampton and under 2.5 goals as Sparta have kept four consecutive clean sheets at home in all competitions while the Saints aren’t the highest scoring of sides.