Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has confirmed that he will field a strong team for his side’s Carabao Cup tie with Brentford on Wednesday evening.
Saints began their 2020/21 season with a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday and put in a performance that emphasised the need for more game time for their players.
A shortened pre-season schedule has seen less friendlies played and the fact that it will take time for his players to return to previous levels of performance seems to have registered fully with Hasenhuttl.
Speaking to the media after the loss to Crystal Palace and previewing the Carabao Cup clash with Brentford, he said:
“I don’t want to make and excuses for us today. We were not good enough and we will be better than that next week.
“The players need the game time so we will use that game (Brentford cup tie).”
With potentially five games played in all competitions by the third weekend of the 2020/21 season, Saints have the ideal opportunities to get back towards the levels they were showing at the end of last season.
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Two potential cup ties in between three league games will almost create a pre-season style schedule that will improve the sharpness of all the players involved.
Having played Palace on a Saturday and then facing Brentford on a Wednesday, there is a good amount of recovery time for Hasenhuttl’s squad and he can play a similar team to the one that started at Selhurst Park is he so chooses.
An example of the value of early cup games in a campaign came back in 2014/15 when Ronald Koeman was in the early days of his time in charge at St Mary’s.
Saints had an almost completely new squad of players after many player sales and many signings to replace those outgoing from the club but a 2-0 victory over Millwall in the League Cup sparked a very good run of form that saw the team gel brilliantly – eventually finishing 7th in the Premier League despite the odds being stacked against them.
This season is more about Hasenhuttl getting his players back to higher levels of performance but early season matches can certainly be used in the same way to build some vital momentum.