Southampton manager Claude Puel confirmed that tonight’s squad for the FA Cup replay against Championship opponents Norwich will consist of a “mix” of youth and the more “experienced players.”
The Frenchman insisted that this evening’s game is a key chance for the club's Academy graduates to gain valuable experience playing amongst the first-team players, but also highlighted the importance of qualifying for the next round.
He said: “Of course, we want to qualify. This is important for all the squad and to continue this work.”
Puel fielded five academy graduates in the initial 2-2 draw with Norwich at Carrow Road and a similar approach looks likely to be taken tonight as the Saints attempt to progress in a competition that has derived the south coast team of success in recent years.
Direct progress to the fourth round was halted by a late Steven Naismith header adding a further fixture to add to the Saints jam-packed January, and Puel highlighted the importance of rotation to benefit results across all competitions.
“For all these games in January it is important to have rotation,” he continued, with his squad having had a testing festive fixture period.
Puel to utilise squad depth for Norwich clash
The former Nice manager has gained a reputation for tinkering with his side, with the 55-year-old yet to name the same team in consecutive fixtures.
The approach seems to be working in cup competitions with the Saints just one game away from Wembley in the EFL Cup. However, league form has been questioned with the St. Mary's club on a current run of four straight defeats.
On the positive side, the club's reputation of producing young talent has not been dampened this season with Puel handing four graduates debuts this season thus far.
The re-instatement of Harrison Reed has added to that and regular first teamer James Ward-Prowse is another to have benefitted from the widely successful Southampton FC academy.
Tonight’s side is likely to be similar to the side that were held at Carrow Road with captain Jose Fonte looking likely to be omitted from the squad once again.
Goalkeeper Harry Lewis is likely to keep his place in the side after his debut came in the previous encounter between the two sides. Other youngsters including Harrison Reed, Jack Stephens and pacey winger Josh Sims, who all look set to retain their places with England Under-21 captain Ward-Prowse also likely to start.
Manager Puel’s impressive reputation of developing youth looks to be growing as the young lads from the south coast continue to perform and making the comfortable transition to first-team Premier League football