Ronald Koeman returns to boost Southampton
Ronald Koeman returns to boost Southampton as the Dutchman makes a belated start to the Premier League season when his side host Everton on Saturday.
London: Ronald Koeman returns to boost Southampton as the Dutchman makes a belated start to the Premier League season when his side host Everton on Saturday.
Koeman was absent when Saints started their league campaign with a 2-2 draw at Newcastle last Sunday after undergoing Achilles tendon surgery but the 52-year-old returned to the club this week and will be in the dug-out at St Mary`s.
The meeting with Roberto Martinez`s team marks Southampton`s first home league game since they signed off in May with a 6-1 victory over Aston Villa, a game marked by Sadio Mane`s 176-second hat-trick, the Premier League`s fastest ever.
Mane is anxious to carry on where he left off and maintain the progress he showed in scoring 10 league goals in his first season following his move from Salzburg.
The Senegal forward failed to get on the scoresheet last weekend, but fellow forwards Graziano Pelle and Shane Long were on target and, with Jay Rodriguez back following a long-term knee injury, Koeman has an enviable range of forward options.
"It was nice to end the season like that at St Mary`s," Mane said. "I will try and score more than last season.
"In football, for the striker it is important for them to score for the team. We start the season and I didn`t score but the team drew, which is more important.
"Especially for Graziano, he is in good form at the moment and we try to help him with everything. We give him the ball so he will score for us. The team is more important than me."
Koeman strengthened his squad this week with the capture of Chelsea midfielder Oriel Romeu.
But Saints will face Everton without two other new signings, midfielder Jordy Clasie (ankle) and centre-back Steven Caulker, while goalkeeper Fraser Forster and defender Florin Gardos are long-term knee victims. Everton have started this season in the same way they began their previous two under the management of Martinez; by drawing 2-2 against a team they might have expected to beat.
Watford exposed defensive vulnerabilities at Goodison Park last Saturday, with Phil Jagielka in particular looking shaky.
It is that soft centre, more than a record of just two away wins at Southampton in the Premier League era, that may give Martinez cause for apprehension.
They will certainly need to defend better than they have on their last two visits to St Mary`s; they lost both times and conceded three own goals in the process.
"Our last two visits to Southampton have been tough for different reasons," Martinez said.
"If things could have gone wrong, they went wrong. Two years ago we conceded two early own goals.
"If you look at our history, it`s been a very tough place for us. It becomes an extra challenge, and we want to embrace that."
Martinez has not been helped defensively by the freak ankle injury Leighton Baines suffered in training last week.
The left-back had only just returned from an absence of almost three months following surgery on the same ankle, and has now been ruled out for around three months.
Winger Kevin Mirallas, though, has recovered from the swollen ankle sustained last Saturday, when he was on the receiving end of a rough challenge by Swiss midfielder Velon Behrami.
His presence will aid an attacking threat led by Romelu Lukaku, but supported by the re-energised Ross Barkley, and with the additional option of Arouna Kone.
The Ivory Coast striker`s two years at Goodison Park have been blighted by injury and poor form, but his late equaliser against Watford suggested better times ahead.
"It`s a new start for Arouna," Martinez said.