Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl accepts his side will need to play a perfect game against free-scoring Manchester City – and might even need to get nasty when they head to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Hasenhuttl shared thoughts on how City dismantled his former club RB Leipzig 6-3 in their opening Champions League tie on Wednesday night with some of his old contacts.
The Austrian, who joined the Saints in December 2018, admits the notes would not have made pleasant reading.
“I was texting with a few guys in Leipzig. We had a very similar game last season there where we lost 5-2 after we had a very good start, but then conceded the first goal after 15 minutes,” Hasenhuttl said.
“You know then what you cannot do against this team and when the pressing is not perfect, then they pop you and you are definitely losing.
“If you sit deep and they have time to play around, it is also not clear that you get away with something countable.
“But we have also shown in the past that when we have a perfect match, that we can win against them.
“You need a perfect game, and the week was good because we had time to prepare. It is a perfect week, you have all week to prepare for things.
“You have a game on Wednesday evening, where you can watch what you can do and what you cannot do.
“But you can prepare all you want – it is still Man City, facing the best quality you can imagine, and that makes it so difficult.”
Hasenhuttl, though, feels his side can still come up with a game plan to both help nullify City’s threat and present some of their own.
“We have seen in the past that we also have some qualities and must believe in what we do,” he said.
“We want to be, in a fair and footballing way, a nasty team to play against, with all the behaviours and automatism we tried to create this week.
“Then we need luck in the right moment, your goalkeeper makes a good save and everything else which you need to take something positive.”
Striker Shane Long will be available again after recovering from a positive Covid-19 test while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Midfielder Will Smallbone is back in full team training after eight months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Winger Theo Walcott and midfielder Stuart Armstrong, though, remain out with calf muscle issues.
“Last season when you were fit you played, but now we have a lot of qualities that we can try,” Hasenhuttl said.
“It is not so much about who deserves to play, it is more about what you need to play.
“This is what I told the players today – sometimes it looks a little bit unfair in the future when you are not playing because you did a good job in the last game.
“But when you need something different against this opponent we now have the opportunities to change and this is what we need.”