Southampton take on Leeds United in the Premier League on Saturday.
These sides finished 15th and 17th respectively last season, so they will be desperate to avoid any relegation trouble this time around.
However, if last weekend’s opening day 4-1 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur is anything to go by, the Saints should prepare to be involved at the wrong end of the table this season.
James Ward-Prowse, so often his side’s talismanic presence having bagged 10 league goals in a season for the first time last time out, got Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side off to a flier with a well-struck volley after only 12 minutes.
However, only three sides – one of which being their forthcoming opponents – conceded more goals than Southampton last season, and their porous defence was on full display once again as Spurs fought back through two headers from Ryan Sessegnon and Eric Dier to lead at half time.
A calamitous Mohamed Salisu own goal killed off any realistic chances of a fight back, before the majestic Dejan Kulusevski wrapped up a comfortable victory for the hosts with a lovely finessed finish beyond the reach of debutant goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.
Clearly, Saints have a much better chance of claiming a positive result against Leeds this weekend, but they will surely need to defend much better in order to achieve one.
Indeed, Leeds showed great character to fight back from one goal down to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 at Elland Road last weekend.
Daniel Podence provided the visitors with a sixth-minute lead after his effort bounced off the ground before crashing off the underside of the bar and in, but Rodrigo managed to fire the ball past Jose Sa at the goalkeeper’s near post to level the proceedings less than 20 minutes later.
The Lilywhites unsurprisingly looked a far more effective offensive unit with Patrick Bamford back in the side, with the striker’s chronic injury issues last season significantly contributing to them being in a relegation battle having finished in the top half upon their return to the Premier League two seasons ago.
The 28-year-old’s excellent cross after the break was inadvertently diverted into his own goal by Rayan Ait-Nouri to give the hosts a crucial lead, before Bamford was unfortunate not to open his account for the season with his well-placed header superbly palmed away by Sa late on.
Judging by his heated argument with opposing manager Bruno Lage after the game, there is little doubting Jesse Marsch‘s passion and fire to help Leeds improve this season, and they have every chance of bagging another win on the South coast on Saturday.
Southampton will remain without Tino Livramento, with the right-back unlikely to return until at least December following his cruciate ligament rupture sustained last season.
Theo Walcott will also be unavailable against Leeds with a return to training for the former England forward targeted towards the end of the month.
Against Spurs, Hasenhuttl stuck with the 5-3-2 system which he had adopted throughout pre-season, and he is unlikely to throw this away after one poor result against a strong team.
However, Yan Valery had a noticeably poor game as the right-sided centre-half so Jack Stephens could be called upon there to add some experience, while Che Adams could replace Adam Armstrong to provide a more physical presence alongside Joe Aribo in attack.
Marsch, meanwhile, has been boosted by having Liam Cooper, Adam Forshaw and new signing Luis Sinisterra all return to training this week.
Having won last week, though, the trio are unlikely to be thrown straight into what is likely to be an unchanged starting XI, but they should provide more depth if they are deemed ready to be a part of the squad.
Daniel James also returns after completing his three-match suspension following a vicious tackle against Chelsea last season, but full-backs Junior Firpo, Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas are all facing more time out with serious knee injuries.
Southampton possible starting lineup:
Bazunu; Stephens, Bednarek, Salisu; Walker-Peters, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Lavia, Djenepo; Adams, Aribo
Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Llorente, Struijk; Roca, Adams; Aaronson, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford