Southampton manager Nathan Jones is relishing the prospect of facing a former club in his first Premier League game at the helm, having served Brighton and Hove Albion as a player and a coach.
Jones was appointed as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s successor last month, with Southampton slipping to 19th in the table before the World Cup after losing seven of their last 10 league games.
Fellow South Coast side Brighton provided Jones with his formative coaching experiences, but he is in no mood to do them any favours on Monday.
“I played there for five years at the Withdean Stadium,” Jones said. “I had a relatively successful time, three promotions and really enjoyed it. I met some good friends, good people, and built some sort of reputation there. Then I had the opportunity to go back as assistant manager to three managers.
“It gave me an education, it gave me a real kick in football and I got real good people there that helped me along my way. They really helped me in my progression and it’s a club close to my heart. It won’t be on Boxing Day!”
While Brighton are flying high in seventh place, their return to action after the World Cup was an unhappy one as their much-changed side suffered an EFL Cup last-16 exit against Charlton Athletic.
Boss Roberto De Zerbi, however, is expecting to be able to name a much stronger team at St Mary’s.
“Yes, we had eight players at the World Cup but we are proud of this. We aren’t sorry,” De Zerbi said. We have to wait for (Alexis) Mac Allister but (Kaoru) Mitoma, (Leandro) Trossard, (Tariq) Lamptey, Moises Caicedo, (Pervis) Estupinan, and Robert Sanchez will be back for the next game.
“I believe in my players – they suffered this last result and I wait for a good answer on the pitch.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Southampton – Che Adams
Adams has scored twice as many Premier League goals as any other Southampton player this season (four). However, all four of his strikes have come away from home, making him the highest scoring player yet to score at home in the competition so far this term – can he break that duck here?
Brighton and Hove Albion – Leandro Trossard
No player has scored more away goals in the Premier League this season than Brighton’s Trossard (five), while no Seagulls player has ever scored more than five on the road in a single Premier League campaign.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Southampton have lost just one of their 10 Premier League meetings with Brighton (W3 D6), going down 2-1 at home in March 2021.
– The home side has never won in 10 previous Premier League games between Southampton and Brighton (D6 L4) – no fixture has been played more often without the home side ever winning (Bournemouth v Watford also 10).
– Southampton have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games (D2 L7), scoring just six goals in this run and never more than once in a game. Saints have also kept only one clean sheet in their last 21 league games, and are the only Premier League side without a home shutout this season.
– This will be Nathan Jones’ first home Premier League game in charge of Southampton. Just one of the last eight Saints managers to take charge of the club in the top-flight has won their first such home game (D5 L2), though it was the most recent one, with Ralph Hasenhüttl beating Arsenal in December 2018.
– Having kept three clean sheets in their first four Premier League games this season, Brighton have since kept just one in their last 10. The Seagulls’ last four league games have produced a total of 17 goals (nine four, eight against), at an average of 4.3 per game.