FA Cup

Southampton v Crystal Palace: Koeman keen to restore belief and confidence

Ronald Koeman wants Southampton to restore their belief and confidence by beating Crystal Palace in the FA Cup third round.

Koeman’s men have won just one of their last nine games in all competitions and last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Norwich City was overshadowed by off-field controversy surrounding Sadio Mane.

Mane was dropped to the bench after showing up late for the final team meeting before the loss at Carrow Road.

However, Koeman has been pleased by the Senegalese’s response in training this week and has made the 23-year-old, who has been linked with Manchester United, available for selection.

Southampton lost 3-2 to Palace in the fourth round last year and Koeman told their official YouTube channel: “We know it’s a tough one, we know the opponent, we know the strengths, but also the weaknesses of Crystal Palace.

“We have the experience from last year in the FA Cup that we lost against them 2-3 at home. We have to do better. After the last two defeats against West Ham and Norwich we need a win.

“It’s [Crystal Palace] a tough one to beat. A lot of physical strengths in the team, some good players. They are doing a good run in the Premier League and that makes it difficult. We can beat everybody if we reach our level.

“We need to win to have the belief and to have the confidence in the team. It’s a tough competition of course we like to make a good run, we take it very seriously.”

While Mane is available, Victor Wanyama, whose sending off at Norwich proved pivotal, is suspended. Jay Rodriguez (foot), Cedric Soares (knock) and Florin Gardos and Fraser Forster (both knee) are all out.

Graziano Pelle is also unavailable with a knee issue, but could feature in Wednesday’s Premier League game with Watford.

Bakary Sako is fit to return for Palace following a hamstring problem, Dwight Gayle and Connor Wickham could make their comebacks from similar issues at Aston Villa on Tuesday.

Yannick Bolasie (calf) is still sidelined for the visitors.

Palace have excelled in the Premier League under Alan Pardew and are seventh in the table, just five points outside the top four.

And former Southampton winger Jason Puncheon is keen to continue their positive form in the cup.

“The manager has made it clear how important Saturday is and I think the players are grasping at the opportunity to play,” Puncheon told Palace’s official website.

“As a club and as players, we take the FA Cup very seriously and we want to get as far as we can.

“The furthest I’ve got is the fifth round, but we’ve got the capabilities to go further this year and we’ll be taking that mentality into the game. It’s the FA Cup and magical things can happen.”

Palace triumphed 1-0 when the sides met in the top flight at Selhurst Park in December.

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