Puel warns Southampton not to be distracted by EFL Cup final and focus on league
Claude Puel has urged his Southampton players to forget about their EFL Cup final against Manchester United and focus on Saturday's Premier League fixture at Sunderland.
Against the team that is bottom of the league but threatening a revival, Southampton hope to avoid equalling their worst ever top flight run of seven defeats from eight games, as they last did in 1998/99.
Unlike then, they appear at little risk of relegation, but Puel is concerned their glamorous fixture at Wembley on February 26 could distract them.
"The game, seriously, I don't think anything about the final," said the 55-year-old, according to the Southampton Daily Echo. "For me it's far and we have time to prepare this game, so it's just to stay focused about this game against Sunderland.
"Our fans, the squad, the staff, all deserve other things, not this last result (losing 3-1 to West Ham).
"All the players have some good concentration about this game without thinking about the final and this is very important.
"We can have one week to prepare this game and it is fantastic for us. It is a very good thing to keep our calm, to have the good analysis about the last games and to find the good solution to prepare this game.
"It is a good place and a good opponent to show other things and to give pleasure and good feeling for the fans and for all the team and to prepare the final with a good spirit and calm because we know we can do good work the week before."
Southampton remain without injured centre-back Virgil van Dijk and club-record signing Sofiane Boufal, both owing to ankle injuries.
"We talk about the absence of Virgil but with the work we can compensate, and we can find the good relationship between the play and the good solution and other players can do a little more to compensate this absence," he said.
"It is important to stay on the reality and our position is not comfortable and to give a good answer for this game. It is an important game for us to see our ambition and to keep us from the other team behind us. This is very important."