Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has ordered his players to ignore the possibility of facing an under-strength Crystal Palace on Sunday and focus solely on trying to secure a Europa League place.
Palace are expected to rest several first-team players at St Mary’s on the final day of the Premier League season, with an eye on the FA Cup final against Manchester United next weekend.
However, such a move is of no concern to Koeman, whose men sit seventh in the table and have a chance of pipping West Ham to a top-six finish.
On the prospect of playing in Europe next term, the Dutchman said: “That would be fantastic. That would be a big achievement after a very good season.
“It’s not to be happy now. It’s do your job on Sunday and we know it’s a difficult game.
“Maybe they will make some changes in the team because they play the FA Cup final in one week, but we expect a strong team.
“[We need to focus on ourselves] and finish the season like we have in the last few months and then it’s really time to enjoy, but not before Sunday afternoon.”
Southampton have been on an impressive run of form in the league, unbeaten in five games and with wins over Tottenham and Manchester City to show for their efforts.
The Saints received further boosts on Friday, with goalkeeper Fraser Forster and midfielder James Ward-Prowse committing their long-term futures to the club.
Following that good news was Koeman, who is contracted until next year, dismissing links to the vacant Everton job.
Southampton, whose only absentee is midfielder Jordy Clasie (groin), also boast an excellent Premier League record against Palace, having lost just one of the previous 13 meetings between the clubs.
However, that defeat came in December when Yohan Cabaye scored the game’s only goal at Selhurst Park.
It is set to be a different team this time around for Palace, who are 14th in the table having secured their top-flight status.
Palace manager Alan Pardew has confirmed Julian Speroni will start and equal John Jackson’s club record for a goalkeeper of 388 appearances.
“On this occasion sentimentality has won,” he said.
“He deserves it. He has been a fantastic back-up to the other goalies.”
Pardew, who ruled Joe Ledley (fibula) and Wilfried Zaha (muscular injury) out of the clash, is full of praise for his former club Southampton.
“Southampton are a superb club with supporters that trust the team and manager,” he said.
“They’re the form team in the Premier League at the moment.”
Key Opta stats:
– Crystal Palace have failed to win their past 10 away league games (D5, L5).
– Southampton have claimed seven wins from their past nine league games at home (D1, L1).
– Dusan Tadic has been involved in eight goals in his past four Premier League games (two goals, six assists).
– Only West Ham (15) have scored more headed goals this season in the top flight than Southampton (14).
– Crystal Palace have scored the highest percentage of goals from set-pieces in the Premier League this season (47 per cent).
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!