Southampton V Crystal Palace at St. Mary's Stadium : Match Preview

04 April 2017 12:34

Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long under no extra pressure to score at Southampton

Southampton manager Claude Puel will not put pressure on forwards Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long to score more goals in the absence of injured striker Manolo Gabbiadini.

Mid-table Saints host in-from Crystal Palace at home on Wednesday on the back of Saturday's goalless home draw against Bournemouth - a match Italy forward Gabbiadini missed through an injury sustained before the international break.

Having arrived at St Mary's on the final day of the January transfer window, the former Napoli frontman hit the ground running with five goals in his first four starts before picking up a groin injury in the early stages of the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on March 19.

With fellow striker Charlie Austin also sidelined, Rodriguez and Long were given the task of leading the line for Puel's side last weekend against the Cherries.

The pair drew a blank, but Puel has stressed the importance of not piling pressure on his depleted front line, and challenged every member of his squad to chip in with goals.

"For a striker, it's always important to score, but I don't want to put them under pressure with an obligation to score," Puel said.

"It's important they can do good work for their team-mates.

"In different situations they can have different opportunities to score, but it's not just important for strikers to score.

"I think we have improved since the beginning of the season. Many players can score in the team, sometimes for the first time, and I said it's important all of the players in the team can score - not just the strikers. It's important to continue this work.

"Of course, (Steven) Davis, (James) Ward-Prowse, (Nathan) Redmond, different players - defenders in set-pieces - can score. It's important to create danger with many opportunities with different players."

Midfielder Sofiane Boufal is doubtful for the clash after he pulled a leg muscle in training on Monday. The Moroccan will be assessed ahead of the midweek game at St Mary's.

Defender Martin Caceres could make his debut for Puel's side after reaching full match fitness for the first time since joining the Saints in February.

Meanwhile, Eagles boss Sam Allardyce has warned Wilfried Zaha of the need to retain his focus as his fine form attracts wider transfer speculation surrounding his future.

The winger, 24, has produced the best football of his career to inspire Palace's recent resurgence as they battle against relegation.

Zaha has long been a reported transfer target for Tottenham, and ahead of Wednesday night's clash his manager has reminded him of where his priorities should lie.

"Hopefully Wilf is not listening to all that the papers are saying, good or bad. And that it doesn't distract him from the performances he is giving," said Allardyce.

"You can get distracted by good publicity as well as bad, and he has to consistently perform to the level he is at and that gives him a greater value.

"Whether Wilf accepts that, maybe on the basis that he likes this club and what the club's done for him, only time will tell. So come the end of the season, make sure we are in the Premier League and those talks can take place, but until then shut up about it."

Palace will be without centre-backs Scott Dann, who has a medial knee ligament injury, and James Tomkins (calf) so Martin Kelly and Damien Delaney will come into contention to play alongside Mamadou Sakho.

Patrick van Aanholt is still sidelined with an ankle problem, while James McArthur remains a doubt, but Loic Remy is again available.

Source: PAR