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Final warm-up game ahead of Premier League as Saints take on Udinese

Jay Rodriguez in action against Bristol City

Jay Rodriguez in action against Bristol City

First published in Sport Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Reporter

SAINTS have one last opportunity to sharpen themselves up for the Premier League season when they host Udinese tomorrow night.

The Italian side, who will feature in this year’s Champions League, promise to provide the sort of stern test that Nigel Adkins will be hoping for in the final friendly of the summer.

As he did on Tuesday at Bristol City, the Saints boss is likely to field a lineup that closely resembles his current first-choice team.

While he might not wish to tip his hand completely ahead of next weekend’s opener at Manchester City, it is likely Adkins will want to give his key players a chance to further acclimatise to the new formation they are being asked to play this season.

In midweek, there were some signs that they are becoming more comfortable with the change from a fluid 4- 4-2 into what is now more of a 4-3-3, with three central midfielders and two wide players supporting a lone striker.

As the squad stands, there appear to be few positions where there is much debate.

Kelvin Davis remains the number one keeper, while Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte , Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox are the preferred personnel in the back four for now.

In midfield, Adam Lallana is playing centrally, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Steven Davis likely to occupy the spots alongside him, at least while Jack Cork is absent anyway.

In the wide positions that are designed to support lone frontman Rickie Lambert , Jay Rodriguez, right, seems to be favoured on the left-hand side, while the opposite flank is slightly less clear.

Guly do Prado and Jason Puncheon have both operated there, with the Brazilian likely to be favourite for the nod.

Billy Sharp is also pushing for a role somewhere after an impressive pre-season.

However successful tomorrow’s test run goes, it is will be played out in front of a very different atmosphere to the one Saints will face on August 19.

Attendances at the club’s home pre-season games have been noticeably low this summer – a problem that could be exacerbated for Udinese by a late weekend kick-off and the final night of action in the Olympic Games.

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