It hasn’t been a great few weeks for Southampton.
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They’ve lost three-straight games in the Premier League, plus captain Jose Fonte has handed in a transfer request and now record-signing Sofiane Boufal was injured with Morocco and on Monday he returned from the African Cup of Nations before the tournament even started.
Add up all of that and manager Claude Puel has a few headaches ahead of the big EFL Cup semifinal first leg at home against Liverpool on Wednesday.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saints’ first domestic cup semifinal since 2003, Puel confirmed that Fonte will not feature against Liverpool and that Virgil Van Dijk will continue as Saints’ captain.
“It is important for me to keep stability in the defense with players, we don’t know the future for Jose, it is a difficult situation,” Puel said. “You know the situation with Jose. I respect Jose and this is not easy for him, the squad or the staff. He is a good professional, but we have to respect this situation.”
On Boufal, the French manager said his star winger has suffered inflammation on the same knee he had surgery on last year and will be out for a few weeks as he recovers in Southampton.
With Saints on 24 points after 20 games in the PL, knocked out of the Europa League at the group stage and drawing with second-tier Norwich City in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, Puel badly needs his players to stand up and put in a big performances on Wednesday against Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool.
Southampton have only reached one major cup final in the past 40 years and Puel would become a hero in the south coast city if he could guide Saints past Liverpool over two legs and to the final against either Manchester United or Hull City.
Putting the bad news about Fonte and Boufal to the one side, Saints’ fans will take being level heading into the second leg at Anfield in two weeks time.