Southampton may boast a convincing advantage against Arnhem, but fiercely-competitive manager Ronald Koeman says it would be “crazy” to jeopardise their Europa League dream by fielding a weakened side.
Long pulled out on the eve of the match in Holland with illness. The first leg of this third qualifying round tie could not have gone much better for Saints last week, ending a topsy-turvy 12-year absence from continental competition in style.
A potentially tricky encounter with Vitesse was dealt with impressively as goals from Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Shane Long secured a comprehensive 3-0 win at sold-out St Mary’s.
Such dominance means one bookmaker has priced Saints at 1/250 to progress past Vitesse tonight (7pm), not that manager Koeman will be letting his foot off the pedal.
“I hope for a good game and, for sure, it is a game that we will start with the same intensity that we did last week,” he said. “Even with this result. It is a comfortable result but it is only after 90 minutes. Football is sometimes strange and if you don’t start with enough concentration, if you don’t play with the same intensity in pressing the opponent, then it is possible that you get a difficult evening.
Koeman was coy when asked about the speculation surrounding a move for Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk. “I think it’s the best in my position to say nothing about that.”