We caught up with Tom Leach, Southampton reporter for Hampshire Live, for the inside track on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s high-flyers.
1. How has the season gone so far for Southampton, it seems to have been fantastic?
Firstly, I would like to use this chance to send my best wishes to Shrewsbury Town boss Steve Cotterill. The news makes you realise how football isn’t really all that important and let’s hope he is back on his feet soon.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has also sent his own little tribute and I am sure everybody down here is thinking of him.
For Southampton, the season has been great! The campaign has been better than anybody could have imagined and under Ralph Hasenhuttl the football has been brilliant.
But in recent weeks injuries have been a big, big problem with Jannik Vestergaard, Danny Ings, Nathan Redmond, Moussa Djenepo, Oriol Romeu and Mo Salisu all out.
That has hurt them a lot, but they are still fighting on and, thankfully, are nowhere near a relegation battle.
2. The FA Cup isn’t often a priority for clubs, should that be the case this season for the Saints, they look like real contenders?
I think it should be, and it probably was, but the recent injury problem could have scuppered that. Southampton are likely to name a very youthful side on Tuesday night with players such as Dan N’Lundulu and Yan Valery set to start.
I am expected around five academy talents and six first-teamers, that sort of mix of youth and experience.
The FA Cup could have been a big opportunity for Saints, but it is just those pesky injuries that could see Ralph forced to save his players for the league games and risk a cup exit.
3. Are we likely to see much rotation for the game?
Yes, absolutely. Danny Ings will be missing, he is not fully fit after his own battle with coronavirus. Elsewhere there are eight other first-team players injured including Will Smallbone who damaged his ACL on Saturday night. The change throughout the team will not be a case of Saints underestimating Shrews, not at all. They are almost all forced. It’s a nightmare for Hasenhuttl.
4. Who are the potential starters who could be ones to watch for Shrewsbury?
Dan N’Lundulu will feel pretty hard done by if he doesn’t start against Shrewsbury. He’s a big power striker who should really be scoring goals against this level of opposition.
Ibrahima Diallo will likely play in midfield too, a real star of the future. He stepped in for the injured Oriol Romeu a few weeks ago and has looked like an experienced pro at the age of just 21 – he will be a real star.
5. Are there any injury/covid worries for the game?
Yes, nine. It is perhaps easier if I list for your readers. Saints will be without Jannik Vestergaard, Danny Ings, Oriol Romeu, Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Tella, Will Smalbone, Nathan Redmond, Mohammed Salisu and Michael Obafemi.
As you can imagine, this is a nightmare and it is perhaps a blessing for Hasehuttl that it is a cup tie they will miss with roughly half of that group set to return against Arsenal in ten days time.
6. What’s your predicted XI for the encounter?
I always pick a likely XI but, this week, it is close to impossible. As I said, I am expected five kids to play and six senior players so I would expect an eleven like this...
Southampton (4-4-2): Forster; Ramsay, Bednarek, Stephens, Vokins; Ward-Prowse, Diallo, Valery, Walcott; Ferry, N’Lundulu.
7. Your match prediction?
I am hoping that Southampton have enough to come through this one with their limited squad. Shrewsbury have a real chance here though to pull what would, on paper, look like a real result.
But I am going to say 2-1 to Southampton.