Michael Appleton might not be a household name in football, although the young Portsmouth manager has already started to change the team’s fortunes since arriving at Fratton Park a month ago.
The former West Brom assistant manager has seen his Pompey team claim victory in each of their last two matches, beating Coventry City at home before triumphing at Burnley last weekend – something which was their first away victory of the season.
These results set Portsmouth up nicely for a massive match on Sunday, with arch-rivals Southampton in town and the home team will be desperate to land another three points in front of their own supporters.
You can back Pompey at odds of 21/10 (bet365 – £200 free bets) with Appleton calling for his team to keep a calm head despite the fact that 20,000 fans will be roaring them to victory.
Appleton said: “You’ve got to get the balance right between realising the importance of the game and not getting too hot under the collar.
“We’ll give it everything. I don’t know of any coach who can guarantee something other than 100% effort. Hopefully with that effort, the talent will show on the day and we can edge it.
“You’re not going to beat Southampton just by rolling your sleeves up and being blood and thunder. You have to be a bit cuter than that.
“Anything can happen on the day, but we’ve got a decent home record and let’s hope that continues. The players are in good form and know what they have to do. The atmosphere will be electric and the place will be full.”
Indeed, Portsmouth have won six matches at home this season and will feel confident of beating a Southampton side who have had a mixed bag of results away from St Mary’s.
Nigel Adkins saw Saints lose their 100% home record last weekend against Blackpool and will be hoping that his players can come away from Fratton Park with a morale-boosting victory to set them up nicely for the festive period.
The bookies make them the 13/10 favourites (William Hill – £25 free betting) and this is a team that have managed to score 44 goals in 21 games this term, so finding the net might not be too big a problem for them.
The draw is priced at 12/5, with the sides potentially cancelling each other out, although if you fancy Portsmouth to continue their strong recent form, then a 3-1 victory in their favour can be backed at 25/1.