Saracens v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

Jamie Gibson and Saints will be looking to put things right against Saracens at Allianz Park (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Jamie Gibson and Saints will be looking to put things right against Saracens at Allianz Park (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints

Competition: Champions Cup

Venue: Allianz Park, London

Date: Saturday, January 20, 2018

Kick-off time: 3.15pm

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Bosch, Barritt (c), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Koch; Isiekwe, Kruis; Itoje, Clark, Burger.
Replacements: Tolofua, Thompson-Stringer, Figallo, Skelton, Vaianu, Spencer, Lozowski, Maitland.

Saints: Foden; Pisi, Horne, Stephenson, Tuitavake; Mallinder, Reinach; Ma'afu, Hartley (c), Brookes; Paterson, Day; Lawes, Gibson, Eadie.
Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Hill, Ribbans, Ludlam, Groom, Myler, North.

Outs: Saints: Alex Waller (arm), Jamie Elliott (hamstring), Piers Francis (concussion), Luther Burrell (calf)

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Most recent meeting: Sunday, October 15, 2017: Saints 13 Saracens 57 (Champions Cup)

Tom's preview: Saints are unlikely to require a team talk this weekend.

That is because the incentives of a win at Allianz Park are there for all to see.

If the black, green and gold can beat regular rivals Saracens, not only will they eliminate the back-to-back Champions Cup champions, but they can sample some sweet revenge.

Sarries have stuck a sword into Saints not once but twice this season, following up the Twickenham torture on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership with a European flaying at Franklin's Gardens in October.

Those defeats, 55-24 and 57-13 respectively, got Northampton off to the worst possible start in both major competitions this season.

And Saints are now out of Europe, with their Premiership position currently a lowly 10th.

But, finally, they have some momentum.

The win against Gloucester was backed up by a hugely impressive 34-21 success against Clermont Auvergne at the Gardens last Saturday.

That made it two wins from two under the guidance of coaching consultant Alan Gaffney.

And now the aim is clear: to keep the confidence levels high and to keep building ahead of the next Premiership game, which is the battle at Bath on February 9.

They are unable to progress in the Champions Cup and though they are top of their pool in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, league matters remain the most important.

Saints will be desperate to finish in the top six and grace the Champions Cup again next season as they look to do themselves justice.

They have left it too late this season, but their performance against Clermont showed that when they play to their potential, they can still be a match for Europe's best.

And they will have to perform even better if they are to beat the team that currently hold that title this weekend.

Saracens are a formidable side who have shown their power to full effect against Saints this season.

But now the chance to put things right presents itself.

Even if Saints don't win at Allianz Park, they can still put a spanner in the Saracens works by preventing them from taking the full five points.

And a performance packed with spirit, just as they produced against Gloucester and Clermont, could help them achieve their aims.

It is a big ask to win at Allianz Park, but Saints have upset the odds there before.

And that ability to go under the radar is something they will be using to their advantage for the remainder of this season.

Tom's prediction: Saracens 32 Saints 18