Southampton manager has confidence in Jack Stephens ahead of Liverpool clash

Southampton manager has confidence in Jack Stephens ahead of Liverpool clash

Claude Puel firmly believes that Stephens is ready for the biggest game of his life, with the Saints defender expected to step in for the injured Virgil Van Dijk in their EFL Cup semi-final second-leg away at Liverpool on Wednesday night.

Jess Cowie

Saints manager Claude Puel has said he has faith in centre-half Jack Stephens as he prepares for the biggest game of his career.

The 22 year-olds looks set to start in the League Cup semi-final second leg at Anfield, with captain Virgil van Dijk in doubt with an ankle problem.

Faith in his man

Van Dijk had to be substituted off in the Saints win over Leicester City with major bruising and swelling to his left foot.

If the injury is still an issue then it will be up to Stephens to start in the heart of the defence with his fellow teammate Maya Yoshida.

Puel insists that he is confident enough that Stephens is up for the challenge ahead of him despite it being only his the fourth start for the South Coast club.

Speaking to journalist, the Saints boss said: “For all the players it’s the same. It’s an important game, an exciting game and fantastic to play this game.”

“If he has to play this game I think he will play with a good spirit and calm, and he’s a good player, an international under-21, and now important games and he has quality,” he added.

Puel is putting all his “confidence” in Stephens as he believes the youngster will play with “good spirit” and a “good mentality.”

Starting out

After starting out through the youth academy at Plymouth Argyle and playing a handful of games, Stephens headed to Southampton for £150,000.

He made his first Premier League appearance for the Saints earlier this year but is now set to given the biggest task in his young career.

Puel says he is a “good defender” and has “intelligence” to be a few passes ahead of everyone and “anticipates all situations” with his positioning.

And with Yoshida in the back four, Puel reckons Stephens could learn a thing or two from the experienced defender by watching his “habits” because he is a role model to look up to.

The Saints boss concluded: “I’m confident it’s a good player and we see him with the under-21s also at home, and it was a good game, he was the best player on the England team. For Jack and for all the other players it’s just to think about our game and a strong game together, and we will see the result in the final.”