Belfast Telegraph

Koeman: Saints in confident mood

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman would rather not have Wednesday's FA Cup replay at Ipswich to contend with but has no doubt his side will approach the assignment in buoyant mood after triumphing at Old Trafford.

Koeman was annoyed his men could not secure a fourth-round place from the original tie against Mick McCarthy's Sky Bet Championship high-flyers at St Mary's on January 4, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

The Dutchman readily admits the competition is not Southampton's priority and the last thing he wanted was an additional away game sandwiched between two Barclays Premier League matches on the road, all within the space of seven days.

However, at the same time Koeman would like to see the Saints have a decent run in the FA Cup this season.

And after Sunday's impressive 1-0 top-flight win at Manchester United, which took Southampton up to third in the table, the 51-year-old has no doubt his players are in a good place as they ready themselves for the Ipswich encounter and then Saturday's league trip to Newcastle.

"The United win will bring a lot of confidence to the players," Koeman said.

"We know this will be a tough game and I wasn't happy about the replay because we already play a lot. It is a difficult week.

"But if we have started it like we have, then perhaps it is not so difficult.

"Of course, we would like to go on in the FA Cup, but that is not the most important thing - the most important thing is the league.

"But if the players are feeling well and they have good freshness, then I won't change a lot."

Koeman will have to make at least one alteration to his starting line-up from the United match, with defender Toby Alderweireld having been ruled out for up to four weeks with the hamstring strain that forced him off in the first half of that contest.

Alderweireld's injury is not as serious as first feared but leaves Southampton light in central defence, given Maya Yoshida is currently away with Japan at the Asian Cup.

Saints captain Jose Fonte and Florin Gardos, who replaced Alderweireld on Sunday, are the only senior centre-backs at Koeman's disposal, meaning he may look to make a move this month.

''I don't know (if we need to sign another centre-half), we have to speak about that,'' said Koeman, who can also call upon the inexperienced Jason McCarthy.

''We know that Maya will be away for some weeks.

''We knew already if we got some injuries then maybe it can be a problem, but I think in our squad we can do some things to keep going - I was very happy with the performance of Florin against United.''

Jack Cork, out of first-team action for nine matches due to an ankle injury, could make his return against Ipswich after featuring for the Under-21s on Monday.

Meanwhile, fellow Saints midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has emphasised the club's desire to secure a route into the Champions League with a top-four Premier League finish.

Schneiderlin, quoted by the BBC, said: "We want to put Southampton in the spotlight. That will be a shock for the country and the world.

"We want to reach the Champions League. We want to change this tradition of it being all the big teams.

"Hopefully we can do something special. We are believing we can but if we don't, the most important thing is to get Europe for Southampton."

Schneiderlin has been linked with a move away from the club, with United and Arsenal reported to be interested parties.

And on the prospect of him leaving St Mary's, the 25-year-old France international added: "That's up to everyone's personal choices and the club choice.

"We are going to see where we are going to finish and what everyone's going to do but right now I can't predict anything."


From Belfast Telegraph