Matt Targett knows Southampton must seize the opportunity to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Europe League at Midtjylland on Thursday as they may not have a big enough squad to embark on another European adventure next season.
The Premier League side needed a penalty from Jay Rodriguez, his first goal since March 2014 after returning from a serious knee injury, to draw 1-1 in the first leg at St Mary’s Stadium last week.
Former Southampton academy player Tim Sparv had put Midtjylland in front, but Rodriguez’s spot-kick denied the Danish champions a surprise victory.
Southampton will still be favourites to progress at the MCH Arena and teenage full-back Targett, given his chance in the absence of the injured Ryan Bertrand, is determined to avoid an early European exit.
“Obviously in the first half against Midtjylland we didn’t play to our usual high standards,” he said.
“In the second half we came out fighting and really took the game to them, getting the important goal that we needed.
“We go to their place confident we can get the result we want.”
When asked about Southampton’s chances of qualifying for Europe again this season, the 19-year-old said: “I think it will be much tougher this season.
“Obviously we’ve lost [Morgan] Schneiderlin and [Nathaniel] Clyne, they are two very key players who played a big role in last season’s success.
“If we get into the group stages in Europe, it will be a lot more difficult [to secure another European spot] because we haven’t got as big a squad.
“So there’ll be a lot of tired legs but it will be good for the club to get to that stage.”
Southampton have failed to secure a victory in their first three Premier League games after they were held to a goalless draw at Watford on Sunday, but Midtjylland sit top of the Danish Superliga.
Midtjylland have never reached the group stage of the Europa League, but coach Jess Thorup said: “I would not be surprised if we managed to pull off the surprise.”
Southampton will check on the fitness of winger Sadio Mane, who sustained a hip injury at Watford.
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