Southampton boss Ronald Koeman puts faith in Shane Long

Ronald Koeman has backed Shane Long to spearhead Southampton’s attack at Manchester City in the absence of suspended top-scorer Graziano Pelle.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman puts faith in Shane Long

Boss Koeman believes Long can lead Saints’ line in tomorrow’s Premier League trip to the Etihad Stadium, with 14-goal Pelle banned after picking up five bookings this term.

Long returned to club action after ankle trouble and helping the Republic of Ireland qualify for Euro 2016 for the 1-0 home loss to Stoke, deployed in behind lone striker Pelle.

This weekend though the 28-year-old should have his chance to stake a claim for a central role moving forward.

“You’ll always miss a player that regularly starts,” said Koeman of Pelle’s absence.

“But we can certainly cope, if we couldn’t I would be doing something wrong, because we’re only talking about one player in the squad.

“Shane’s a different player, with different qualities but also a very dangerous front player.

“He was a long time injured, he played 90 minutes last weekend and he will start again.

“Our style will be the same, that we try to play football, to build up from the back, but of course in direct play it needs to be changed a little bit.”

Long stepped into the breach in Pelle’s absence in Southampton’s creditable 1-1 draw at Chelsea in March last season.

Koeman believes former England captain John Terry’s post-match endorsement that day underscores Long’s qualities.

“I still remember what John Terry said after the game that ‘we found it so tough to play against Shane Long’.

“So hopefully we can see the same again now.”

Meanwhile City boss Manuel Pellegrini will hope for a favour from former club Sevilla to help Manchester City through to the Champions League last 16 as group winners.

To finish top City will need to beat Borussia Monchengladbach in their final match at the Etihad Stadium in a fortnight while hoping Sevilla can overcome the Italians. Pellegrini has not given up hope of reclaiming first place.

The Chilean said: “ I hope that Sevilla will win this game and we beat Borussia to finish at the top of the group. I hope our team will continue and have a little bit more luck in the round of 16.”

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