Southampton will face Brentford in the second round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, with both sides looking to bounce back from opening day disappointments.
The Saints’, who have been drawn as the home side, were unable to build on their post-lockdown form from the end of last season and slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to Crystal Palace.
Brentford endured similar struggles against relegation candidates Birmingham City on the weekend. Losing by the same scoreline as Southampton on Saturday, the Bees’ attempt to go one better than last season and gain promotion to the Premier League did not start as planned, with playoff final heartbreak and the departure of Ollie Watkins taking its toll.
The winner of this match will have a trip to either West Bromwich Albion or Harrogate Town in the next round, with the third round being played on the week commencing September 21.
* Team news
The Saints’ will be without Stuart Armstrong, who picked up an injury on international duty.
Apart from the former Celtic midfielder, Southampton has a clean bill of health, with the substitution of Jan Bednarek on the weekend declared as a tactical decision, rather than an injury.
Before the match against Palace, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said that he would decide on his side for the fixture against Brentford after the season opener, with the 53-year-old unsure on his players’ fitness levels.
With their league form of higher importance to the Bees’ than a cup run, the rotation will likely be implemented to aid fitness in such a compact fixture schedule.
As a result, key players such as David Raya, Pontus Jansson, Bryan Mbeumo, and Said Benrahma (who has not featured in the league or cup this season) may all be absent from the starting line-up.
* Predicted line-ups
Southampton: Forster, Vokins, Vestergaard, Stephens, Walker-Peters, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Djenepeo, Ings, Adams
Brentford: Daniels, Henry, Goode, Pinnock, Thompson, Marcondes, Jensen, Dasilva, Canos, Mbeumo, Toney
* Ones to watch
Southampton – Fraser Forster
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster is likely to make his first competitive appearance for Southampton since May 2019, with Hasenhuttl in favour of using the second choice goalkeeper in cup competitions.
Forster comes off the back of a successful loan spell with Celtic, where the England international helped the Scottish champions to their ninth successive league title, keeping 14 clean sheets in the process, as well as lifting the Betfred Cup.
Despite Celtic wanting Forster to return, the 32-year-old had decided to return to England to fight for his place in the Southampton squad and has already moved above Angus Gunn in the pecking order.
Promised game time by Southampton CEO Martin Semmens, the EFL Cup is the perfect chance for the former Newcastle and Norwich goalkeeper to prove his worth at the club, with Alex McCarthy far from an immovable asset in the first team.
Southampton – Moussa Djenepo
After starting on the bench against Palace, with Hasenhuttl choosing 20-year-old Will Smallbone in the right-attacking midfield position over the Malian international, Moussa Djenepo is in-line to make his first start for the Saints’ since March.
Bound to the sidelines through injury and suspension last season, the 22-year-old was still able to contribute two goals and two assists last season in under 1,000 minutes of football, with his two strikes earning his side their first two wins of the season.
In his debut season in English football, the winger was able to complete 2.4 dribbles per match (third in the squad) and was fouled 1.7 times (second in the squad). His dynamic ability on the ball endeared him to the Saints’ faithful, with his decision making in the final third making him a dangerous part of the attacking arsenal.
Adept on playing on the right as well as his more natural left-wing position, Armstrong’s absence through injury in the coming weeks will give Djenepo a chance to prove himself in the first team, with the strong performances by the Scotsman and Nathan Redmond at the back end of last season making it difficult to get into the side.
Bretford – Ivan Toney
Yet to open his account for Brentford after two fixtures, Ivan Toney will be eager to score his first for his new side.
Signing from Peterborough United to replace Watkins, the English striker has joined the Championship side after netting 24 goals in 32 Sky Bet League One matches, helping his former side to seventh in the league.
The 24-year-olds ability to find space in the opposition 18-yeard-box will be a danger to Southampton, with the defensive combination of Jack Stephens and Jannik Vestergaard likely to leave spaces for the intelligent forward.
Despite this, the Saints' could nullify his threat in attack through man-marking the striker, with the six-foot-seven Vestergaard a strong areal presence that will be able to stop his ability to both hold up the ball and bring others into play through flick-ons.
Bretford- Bryan Mbeumo
The least talked about player in the Bretford front three of last season, Bryan Mbeumo could be a danger if Thomas Frank elects to start him against Southampton.
Troubled by Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha on the weekend, Mbeumo brings a similar level of danger to the defence on the Saints’.
Utilised on the right-hand side of the attack, the Frenchman could be facing inexperienced left-back Jake Vokins, who has just a handful on senior appearances to his name.
Strong at running at defenders, having the intelligence to find space between the defensive line, but also cutting in and taking a shot, his 16 goals and seven assists from last season show that he can go both inside and outside of his opposition marker, making him difficult to defend against.
* Last time out
The meeting between the two sides on Wednesday night will be the first for over nine years, with the last being in 2011. The match at Griffin Park finished the away side collecting all three points in a comprehensive 3-0 victory, with Southampton ending the League One season in second place.
The two teams have met just 10 times since August 1959, with Brentford winning on just one occasion.
However, the Bees' have never lost at St Mary's Stadium.
* Where to watch
With fans unable to attend the fixture, the match will be available to stream for £10 on the carabaocup.live website.
As well as this match, all non-televised Carabao Cup matches will be available to stream in full-HD on the website, costing the same price, with live audio commentary available.
To access this, you mused by UK-based.
* Key quotes
Despite Southampton facing a team in the division below, Hasenhuttl insists that Brentford will be a tough match.
“I think it’s a good team, we played them a few times in a friendly and they had a very good last season with a little bit of a disappointing finish, but it will be a good test for us.”
The Austrian also believes that Southampton needs to find a ‘rhythm’, meaning that wholesale changes are unlikely.
“We will see how many changes we make. I think it is important that we begin to find a rhythm, and so I don’t want to make too many changes.”
He added: “We hope to do well in all competitions, and after a not so good start, it’s a chance to make it better on Wednesday. This chance we will take.”
More to follow