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

21 January 2017 04:34
Southampton V Leicester - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Claude Puel happy with Southampton's defensive options

Claude Puel has insisted he is satisfied with Southampton's central defensive options and feels no urgency to sign a replacement for Jose Fonte before the end of the January transfer window.

The manager has also revealed that Fonte's B#8million transfer to West Ham could lead to Florin Gardos finally being given a run in the first team.

Southampton on Sunday host Leicester in the Premier League, in which they hope to end a run of four consecutive defeats.

The departure of the 33-year-old Fonte, despite his status as captain, could yet prove a positive given Puel said his squad had found the uncertainty surrounding his future difficult.

Virgil van Dijk and Maya Yoshida are again expected to become the Frenchman's first-choice central defence. Puel, however, also explained the B#4million Gardos will be given the chance to add to the 11 appearances he has made in the injury-disrupted two-and-a-half-years since his arrival.

"It's a long time with a lot injuries for Gardos," said Puel of the Romanian. "But he came back for the Under-23s before (Wednesday's 1-0 defeat of Norwich) with a good level and we will see if we just have Jack (Stephens) and Florin (Gardos) or you might see another player (now Fonte has left).

"Florin comes back in at an interesting level. We know he's had different injuries and we will see in the reflection to see if Florin can participate with the squad at a good level. We will see this.

"It's a strong defence: a strong central defence, with technical (quality) and with good quality in the duels. Sometimes (because of) injury or a player with a red card it's important to consider if it's enough with Jack and Florin to give a solution.

"It's other quality than Jose, but I'm happy with the situation and with Yoshida and Van Dijk."

The highly-rated Van Dijk, in addition to Ryan Bertrand, is expected to be recalled for Sunday's fixture after both recovered their fitness, but Sofiane Boufal, Steven Davis, Alex McCarthy, Matt Targett and Charlie Austin are among those who remain injured.

Southampton's winless run in the league has led to criticism of Puel's tactics, but the 55-year-old has regardless insisted he has no desire to change their shape or the rotation system that has caused frustration.

"It's always the same system, always the same tactic, every time. Every play. All the players have rehearsed the system, and the play," he said.

"It's an obligation (to rotate): we play every three days, it's not possible to play with the same 11 players."

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri is ready to offer his squad another reward to aid their away form.

The champions are yet to win away in the Premier League this season having earned their first domestic victory on the road with a 2-1 FA Cup win at Everton earlier this month.

They beat Club Brugge 3-0 in the Champions League in September but their last away league triumph came in a 2-0 win at Sunderland last April.

Last season Ranieri promised pizza to his squad after they failed to keep a clean sheet until October and he is preparing another incentive ahead of the trip to the south coast.

He said: "Last season we won so many away, this season no - but we are the same. Sooner or later we will soon win away. So far we've only won in Champions League and FA Cup (matches) away from home - now we must change our mood.

"Sometimes you have to change something when something is wrong, you must be stronger and try to change the way. That is what I want to see.

"I saw one month ago we were back - now we're ready to fight again like last season. I watch my players and see them focused and concentrated. We forgot about the title, forgot everything. Now we're very focused on fighting for 40 points.

"I'll ask them if they want pizza or something more for the clean sheet. It would be fantastic to have four or five clean sheets in a row.

"I'll speak to the players now and ask what they want that's nice."

The champions have lost seven and drawn three of their 10 away games before their match at St Mary's with Ranieri wary of the Saints.

He added: "They are a good team, they keep possession well and move the ball quickly. The last game I remember we drew (0-0) but they deserved to win. We must concentrate and be aggressive."

Ranieri is without Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani who are on African Nations Cup duty with Algeria while Leonardo Ulloa, who handed in a transfer request this week, is sidelined with a thigh problem.

Source: PAR