Southampton vs Portsmouth Preview
By Jim Bonner
Updated Friday, 12th February 2010
The FA Cup derby we've all been waiting for.It has been almost five years but fate has brought Pompey and Southampton together once again for what promises to be a fiery derby FA Cup tie.
Pompey have secured the signing of ex-Werder Bremen left back Dusko Tosic and he should go straight into the squad after receiving international clearance.
Avram Grant will be boosted by the news that John Utaka is set to return from injury and other recent absentees such as Hermann Hreidarsson, Michael Brown, Aaron Mokoena and Tommy Smith could also be fit for the game.
Kevin-Prince Boateng is still injured though and Ricardo Rocha is banned following his red card against Sunderland on Tuesday.
Chief Scummer Alan Pardew will be missing three of his regular back four as Jose Fonte, Jon Otsemobor and Danny Seaborne are all cup-tied, meaning the slow pairing of Radhi Jaidi and Chris Perry should start at centre back.
Saints' top scorer Rickie Lambert is guaranteed to start alongside Papa Waigo whilst captain Dean Hammond has recovered from injury in time for the match.
Let's get one thing straight.
For all of our troubles off the pitch and the heartbreak we have suffered on it, we are still two leagues above a team that is nothing more than an average League One side. We need to remind ourselves that we are the Premier League side with international players and that we should rightfully be favourites tomorrow.
Scummers have been building up their players as if they are to be feared but let's take a closer look at them shall we?
They say that Kelvin Davis is one the best goalkeepers around, this is the same Kelvin Davis who was booed off by his own fans when Pompey put four past him when he was playing for Sunderland in 2005. His top flight career was seen as a bit of a joke and he seems to have found his level at League One now.
Their defence will be marshalled by Radhi Jaidi and Chris Perry, two of the slowest players around. Given that they are going to be up against two strikers with a lot of pace, I think they'll struggle.
Either side of them is likely to be ex-Brighton left back Dan Harding and Wayne Thomas at right back, which seems to be a problem position for them. If so, I hope Avram Grant recognises this and plays Nadir Belhadj on the left wing to take full advantage of this.
The Stains also boast that they have a French under-21 international in their ranks by the name of Morgan Schneiderlin. So what? Arnold Mvuemba was also a French U-21 player not so long ago and couldn't cut the mustard at Pompey so Schneiderlin shouldn't pose a Premier League midfield too many problems, in theory.
The only thing that worries me is their strike force versus our defence. Rickie Lambert has a superb scoring record, albeit in the third tier of English football, and he is up against a back four that haven't kept a clean sheet in a long time.
The most important thing though, is that our players go into this game and match Southampton in the effort and commitment stakes. They need to ignore the atmosphere, be professional as possible and give the referee any decisions to make, as they've cost us in the past.
Our trips to St. Mary's have been nothing but painful. The last time the teams met at the bowl was in the FA Cup in 2005.
Harry Redknapp was in charge of them whilst Velimir Zajec was the Pompey manager at the time. Diomansy Kamara was sent off for a very questionable "deliberate" handball but the fury came in the last minute when Matt Taylor was penalised for handball in the box when the ball clearly hit his shoulder. Peter Crouch scored the resulting penalty to send Pompey out of the cup, though revenge was gained in some style come April.
I'm glad that we have a strong referee for this game in Howard Webb because we always seem to be on the wrong end of some harsh decisions at their place and after Tuesday's debacle with Kevin Friend, I am concerned that a lesser official will buckle under the pressure the home fans will put him under and we'll fall foul to more bad luck this season.
Back to the game itself and if I was Avram Grant I would play the most settled, experienced side we have. Leave Dusko Tosic on the bench as the last time a player made a debut in a South Coast derby it pretty much ended Kostas Chalkias' Pompey career before it had even begun.
Avram Grant's tactics should surely be to keep the middle solid and catch out their suspect defence with the pace we have up top. Utaka and Piquionne are quick, Dindane is unpredictable, Kanu can make a mockery of their defence with his hold-up play and even Danny Webber should cause problems for a League One defence. I'm pretty sure we'll score at least once tomorrow.
I'm also positive that we have enough battling qualities in the midfield to not be over-run by Southampton's, so long as they can stomach the fight. As I said before, my only worry is our weak defence but that is balanced by the encouragement that Southampton's is worse, on paper anyway.
But we all know that this game isn't played on paper and the bottom line is that they will fancy their chances given the feel-good factor surrounding their club, knowing that Pompey have lost every game at St. Mary's.
But, despite all that has happened to us, we also have to fancy our chances because if we can't beat them on their own patch when they are 37 positions below us in the league pyramid, I feel we never will!
Tomorrow will be a day to forget our poor record at St. Fairies, a day to forget that we're bottom of the Premier League and a day to forget that we face another court hearing on the 1st of March which could spell the end of the club.
Tomorrow will hopefully be a day to be remembered for all of the right reasons.
Play Up Pompey!
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
GK: Kelvin DAVIS
RB: Wayne THOMAS
CB: Radhi JAIDI
CB: Chris PERRY
LB: Dan HARDING
RM: Michail ANTONIO
CM: Morgan SCHNEIDERLIN
CM: Dean HAMMOND
LM: Adam LALLANA
CF: Rickie LAMBERT
CF: Papa WAIGO
GK: David JAMES
RB: Steve FINNAN
CB: Marc WILSON
CB: Tal BEN-HAIM
LB: Hermann HREIDARSSON
RM: Hassan YEBDA
CM: Angelos BASINAS
CM: Jamie O'HARA
LM: Nadir BELHADJ
CF: John UTAKA
CF: Aruna DINDANE
Lawro: Draw (2-2)
My Prediction: My heart says that we're good enough to win this if our strikers can take advantage of their poor defence. My head says that they could well give us a tough time given the form of both clubs and the fact it's a derby cup tie.
All I can say is that it will be fiesty and goals are guaranteed. I don't want to even think about how I'll feel if we lose, but if we win it may match that amazing feeling I had when we hammered them 4-1 in 2005.
I'll go for a draw and hope we're still in business for the replay!
Southampton 2 Portsmouth 2