Puel keen to put things right in replay

Southampton manager Claude Puel has acknowledged the importance of the club's FA Cup third round replay with Championship side Norwich this Wednesday.

However, the Frenchman has admitted that he will continue to rotate his starting eleven, regardless of the magnitude of the game. 

Yet another fixture

With league form faltering and an EFL Cup semi-final against Liverpool just around the corner, Southampton really could have done with beating Norwich in their FA Cup third round tie the weekend before last.

Puel's men had lost all three games over the festive period, and so victory was needed at Carrow Road to raise morale and give the Saints the boost required to revive their terrible festive form. While a loss to a side in the division below would be unacceptable, a draw would be far from ideal either, with the replay potential adding to an already packed January fixture list.  

Fortunately for Southampton, as the game entered second-half injury time, they looked like returning to the South Coast with the satisfaction of not outplaying their supposedly lesser opponents, but still getting the job done. A goal each for centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk and Maya Yoshida seemed to be enough for the Premier League side to book their place in the fourth round.

However, almost inevitably, there was a twist in the tale. In the second minute of stoppage time, a total breakdown in the Southampton defence gave Steven Naismith a free header, which he duly converted to draw the Canaries level and ensure the match would be replayed at St Mary's.

Southampton let a lead slip late at Norwich, as the Championship side forced a replay the Saints could have done without. Photo: Getty.

As a result of the late drama, the Saints headed home with that familiar feeling of frustration. Once again, they had failed to win a game that really should have been a formality, and would now have to pay the price by playing yet another fixture.

Victory vital for Puel

With the replay now little over 24 hours away, manager Puel has expressed that it is crucial for his team to progress and avoid a cup upset. In his trademark, understated style, the Frenchman admitted that "Norwich was another disappointment" and that "it was a shame" because Southampton were "unlucky".

Focusing on the task at hand, he admitted that "it's important to finish this work off at home" and to "get a good result". With the Saints' last victory coming way back before Christmas, a good result could be the turning point both for the whole club and for Puel himself.

Rotation, rotation, rotation

In spite of labelling this game as an important one, Puel will not let the need for a win stop him from continuing to make wholesale changes to the Southampton side for every game.

Puel and Southampton have rotated plenty this season. Photo: Getty.

Having made on average nearly six changes to his starting eleven each game, Puel said that "it's normally a mix" in order to "improve these young players" and "give time to different players". With the Norwich encounter the first of five games in under two weeks, it looks set to be the start of another period of mass rotation on the South Coast.

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