Southampton v Middlesbrough preview: Charlie Austin ruled out for hosts

Southampton v Middlesbrough preview: Charlie Austin ruled out for hosts

Southampton will be without forward Charlie Austin because of a shoulder injury for Sunday’s Premier League match against Middlesbrough.

Southampton crashed out of Europe on Thursday night after being held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Hapoel Be’er Sheva at St Mary’s.

The Saints struggled to find a way past their Group K opponents without Austin, who was forced off the field with a shoulder injury shortly before half-time.

“I don’t know how long he will be out but he’s important for us,” said Saints manager Claude Puel.

“I’m not sure if it’s dislocated. I don’t know about that but he cannot play for the next game of course.”.

Aitor Karanka’s side are in good form, losing just one of their last six games in the Premier League. They sit just two points behind their opponents.

Middlesbrough's Gaston Ramirez celebrates after scoring against Hull

Image: Middlesbrough’s Gaston Ramirez celebrates after scoring against Hull

Team news.

Serbia midfielder Dusan Tadic could be in line for a return to the side after making a substitute appearance in the Europa League tie against Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Thursday night following a broken nose.

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Forward Jay Rodriguez and midfielder Sofiane Boufal may feature having been rested from the European tie, when captain Jose Fonte was left on the bench.

Middlesbrough have doubts over attacking trio Gaston Ramirez, Alvaro Negredo and Jordan Rhodes for Sunday’s trip to Southampton.

None of the three trained on Friday due to unspecified knocks, but Karanka will allow them time to prove their fitness, with David Nugent and Cristhian Stuani standing by.

George Friend (knee) is close to a return but may not be ready until next week.

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Opta stats.

This will be the first Premier League game between Southampton and Middlesbrough since March 2005, which Saints won 3-1 at the Riverside Stadium.

However, this is Boro’s only loss to the Saints in seven previous Premier League meetings (W2 D4).

Southampton haven’t won a top-flight home game against Middlesbrough since September 1996. They won 4-0 thanks to goals from Matt Le Tissier (2), Matt Oakley and Gordon Watson.

Southampton have allowed their opponents just 35 shots on target in the Premier League this season; the best record in the division.

Middlesbrough have mustered a league-low 36 shots on target this season after 14 matchdays.

There have been just 28 goals in games involving Southampton and Middlesbrough this season – no side has seen fewer goals scored in their Premier League matches in 2016-17.

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Five of Charlie Austin’s six Premier League goal this season have been the opening goal of the game. Only Sergio Aguero (also 5) has scored the first goal of a Premier League match as often this season.

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Austin has scored six goals in his last 10 appearances – his previous six Premier League goals came over a period of 26 games.

Saints have scored just three goals from 20 shots on target in their last six Premier League matches combined.

This will be the 12th time in their last 18 Premier League matches that Southampton will have played on a Sunday. They have already played more Premier League games on a Sunday than any other team this season (eight).

Merson’s prediction.

Boro got a good result against Hull on Monday Night Football and they are doing well, while Southampton’s defeat shocked me because I didn’t see a 3-0 on the horizon.

Former Saint Gaston Ramirez is playing well under Aitor Karanka but Southampton are a good team and in Virgil van Dijk, they have the best centre-back in the Premier League in my opinion.

PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1 (Sky Bet odds 15/2).

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Southampton are Sky Bet’s 4/6 favourites for the victory with Middlesbrough a 19/4 price while the draw is 5/2. Austin heads the first goalscorer betting at 7/2 while Negredo considered the visitors’ main threat at 7/1, while the strike duo are 6/1 to both find the net.

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Jamie Redknapp and the Soccer Saturday pundits have provided their tips for the match – click here to see what they’re backing.