Predicted Southampton starting line-up for season opener vs Watford

A Southampton fan with a wig outside the stadium before the match

The Saints kick off their Premier League campaign at home to Watford, but what starting XI will new manager Claude Puel pick?

Southampton have a new manager in the shape of Frenchman Claude Puel, who has inherited a squad that is packed with talent.

Southampton have made some positive moves in the transfer market over the summer, but have also lost a couple of key players. So, what every Saints fan will want to know is how will the team sheet look come the opening day of the season? Some players have nailed down first team spots for the season opener, but others will have to fight for places in the side. Let's take a look at some of the contested places. 

Southampton manager Claude PuelSouthampton manager Claude Puel

Fraser Forster is almost certain to start in goal, and José Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk will most likely form the centre-back pairing in front of them, but perhaps the right-back position might be one that is yet to be nailed down by any player.

Puel brought versatile French player Jérémy Pied with him when he arrived at St. Mary's this summer, and of course it's uncertain where exactly Puel plans to play him, with Pied able to operate at right-back, right midfield, or even left-back. If he has been brought in as a right-back then he will have to battle Euro 2016 winner Cedric Soares for a starting spot, as well as young upstart Cuco Martina, who impressed when called upon last year. 

Southampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring their first goalSouthampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates

When Koeman was Saints boss he liked to play with two holding midfield players to protect the back four. If Puel adopts the same system, then who would get the nod to start?

Southampton have recruited Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich over the summer, do they see him as an immediate starter or a prospect for the future? He'll compete with James Ward-Prowse, Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu for a starting place in that role. How big a loss will Victor Wanyama be to Southampton this season? Perhaps that depends on how well Hojbjerg can play as his replacement. 

James Ward Prowse celebrates after scoring the first goal for SouthamptonJames Ward Prowse

Who will start as attacking midfielders? New signing Nathan Redmond was excellent for Norwich on the right-wing last season, will he get the nod over someone like Steven Davis to start?

In the number 10 role, Dušan Tadić appears to be nailed on to start, but on the left wing will Jay Rodriguez make his return to the starting XI after a long spell out due to injury? And as for the striker role, it's a straight shootout between Irishman Shane Long and Englishman Charlie Austin. With the loss of Graziano Pelle to the Chinese Super League, could this be the year that Austin really makes a name for himself at St Mary's? 

Southampton's Shane Long scores their first goalSouthampton's Shane Long

Taking all of these battles for first team spots into consideration, here's how the Saints could line up against Watford to hopefully make a winning start under boss Puel in the Premier League: 

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