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Southampton will again be without Mario Lemina, against Burnley this weekend. The midfielder missed the 1-1 draw with Brighton last Sunday with an ankle problem, and is not yet ready to return to Mauricio Pellegrino’s squad. The 24-year-old central midfielder has impressed since joining Southampton from Italian giants Juventus prior to the campaign.
The Saints will have to manage without Lemina, who has had an unparalleled impact for the club. He has acted as a driving force for Southampton, winning the ball back and pushing the ball upfield, turning defence into attack in a flash. However, he is only expected to return after the international break, which will certainly come as a dampener.
Southampton’s next game is against Sean Dyche’s Burnley – a club that has been extremely unpredictable and powerful so far. They have momentum, they are playing well and it will be really tough for the Saints, especially since the Clarets are dangerous on the counter-attack.
In the draw against Brighton, Romeu was barely average and Dusan Tadic failed to do much. So this does leave Mauricio Pellegrino in a bit of a fix. Lack of squad depth in that area is shockingly apparent now and it will certainly affect their performances going forward.
Oriol Romeu or Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are in line to replace Lemina in Southampton’s defensive midfield role but both players are unlikely to match the injured player’s performance. With a severe dent in that area, it will be imperative for the Saints to delegate the duty of effective transition among all their defenders and attacker. Without Lemina putting up the perfect balancing act, it will be tough for Southampton to win against a side like Burnley but it certainly won’t be impossible.
At the end of the day, scoring goals do make a difference and Pellegrino is likely to employ more hard-hitting offensive tactics to effectively penetrate the Burnley defence. Having said that, all hope is not lost. Romeu and Hojbjerg have come through for Southampton in the past, and they will be determined to do better, especially after the dismal performance in the previous game.
Burnley will be coming into this game on the heels of a stellar win against Newcastle United, which should see them brim with confidence. However, it will be interesting to see if either Romeu or Hojbjerg capitalises on Lemina’s absence to make a stronger case for themselves to start more often.