Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Koeman hoping for Euro boost

Ronald Koeman is hoping his Southampton side can benefit from other clubs playing European football
Ronald Koeman is hoping his Southampton side can benefit from other clubs playing European football

Ronald Koeman is hoping the rigours of European football and weight of expectation can sideline Southampton's rivals in the race for Champions League football.

Saints currently occupy fourth spot in the Premier League and are just a point behind Manchester United in third, despite slipping to a 1-0 home defeat to Swansea last weekend.

Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool - the three teams directly below Southampton in the table - all re-start their respective European campaigns in the coming weeks whilst Koeman's side are only focused on the league having been knocked out of the two domestic cup competitions.

And the Dutchman believes more fixtures for the trio could give Saints the edge as they strive for a highest-ever Premier League finish and a place in Europe next year.

"I think that's an advantage for us," he said when asked if the others would fade when European competitions return.

"We don't play in the cup, we don't play European football and they have to. That's difficult because then you will get more injuries, maybe some players are not feeling well, a little bit tired after playing a lot and that can be an advantage for us, to keep strong.

"It not only depends on ourselves - the rest of the teams are playing well. I think if we keep spirit, if we keep the belief in how we play and what we are doing....

"In the last one-and-a-half months we didn't train a lot, because we play a lot of games. Now we are back in normally, weekend, weekend and again we can train to develop ourselves and develop the individual player and to give the players more attention about each position.

"If you play more games then sometimes you will get more injuries, and you need more players and it's difficult. But we know that teams like Tottenham, like Liverpool, it's normal that they will fight for the places up in the table."

After a summer which saw a lot of key players depart and then-manager Mauricio Pochettino poached by Tottenham many anticipated a difficult first season in England for Koeman.

Instead, the Dutchman has delivered and fans on the south coast can start dreaming of European adventures next year - with Koeman believing the hopes of Southampton supporters puts less pressure on his players than the expectation at other, more established clubs.

When asked if the lack of expectation allowed his side to play with more freedom, he replied: "You hope so, because they need European football.

"We like to have European football, but the chairman doesn't say to me 'If we don't reach European football, you did a bad job.' No, and in the case of those kinds of teams that's different.

"But they (Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham) are used to playing for and winning titles and to play for European football with their positions in the table and we don't have that experience.

"We would like to have that. It's a big pressure for us, but maybe in the last few weeks of the season when we are still fighting for a high position in the table then we will get that experience."

Press Association

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