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Betting preview: Southampton - Manchester City

Manchester City broke a handful of Premier League records in midweek with their 3-1 victory over Brighton, setting new benchmarks for goals scored in a season, points gained and number of wins. But the big one is the figure they close in on this weekend - 100 points.

To City fans, it’s more than just a number. Those three digits represent something bigger in a period when most people's definition of history traces back less than half the average human lifespan and is essentially used as a substitute for the term 'honours list'. Becoming the first team to clock up a ton would cement the legend of this team.

For it seems to have already been decreed that Pep Guardiola's City would be christened 'The Centurions' for the matter of instant recall, joining phrases like Fergie Time, The Special One and The Invincibles in the modern-day football vernacular. And for those of a sky blue persuasion, it has a nice ring to it.

The trouble is, though, victory at St Mary’s on Sunday is anything but a formality. City weren’t at their best in the 0-0 draw with Huddersfield last weekend and while they benefited from a lot more space and a few more breaks in the triumph over the Seagulls, the build-up for large periods was pedestrian and unimaginative. 

In many ways, it was a throwback to last season when the players lacked conviction in their understanding of Guardiola’s methods. City might be long over those hurdles now but take away the urgency and intensity from the process, which most observers now take for granted, and it’s surprising just how pale the imitation suddenly appears to be.

Guardiola has done a fine job of guarding against complacency every step of the way this term, but following successive post-match festivities on the Etihad pitch - first lifting the Premier League trophy and then bidding farewell to Yaya Toure - human nature might just get the better of the Catalan this time around.

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By contrast, Southampton could be in a frame of mind to deliver their most intuitive and free-spirited performance of the campaign, liberated as they are by the humongous weight lifted from their shoulders in midweek when they all but guaranteed survival with a gutsy 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Swansea.

It was a monumental game that was preceded, of course, by the irritation of their preparations being disrupted by the local Marriott, who refused to honour their booking at short notice, and the game itself was played in a pit of anxiety and tension. So a largely meaningless game against the champions should be a breeze by comparison.

Ultimately, strange things happen on the final day and while there might be no sign of a Saints win for the most part, that could easily change should an encounter laced with apathy and half-heartedness reach its closing stages with City becoming belatedly desperate for the moment that clinches their label. 

Given that scenario, we can rest assured the visitors won't let this peter out into a tepid stalemate, even if that's what the majority of the contest deserves. Southampton haven't always had the rewards their performances have deserved in recent weeks, so it would also be ironic if they got a large slice fortune now that it barely matters. 

Recommended bet:

Southampton to beat Man City at 8/1

England - Premier League Southampton vs Manchester City 13 May, 14:00 GMT 0

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