Southampton Under-18s welcome Arsenal to Staplewood on Saturday as they bid to make it three victories on the bounce in all competitions.
Anthony Limbrick’s side go into the Barclays Under-18 Premier League clash with the Gunners fresh from their midweek FA Youth Cup exploits, having beaten Everton 5-4 on penalties at Goodison Park to advance to the fifth round.
And the Under-18s coach could be set to ring the changes as his youngsters bid to get the better of a side who held them to a goalless draw back in October.
“There’ll be opportunities for a lot of players to play this week who haven’t possibly played, so there’s a couple of Under-16s who might come in, also some first years who haven’t played as much, so they get their opportunity and they’ve been training well and are ready to go,” Limbrick told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.
“It’s important that they stake their claim to try and push to get into the FA Youth Cup teams from there and progress, so it’s a really good opportunity for them tomorrow and they’ll be keen to play against a good Arsenal side who are always tough, play good football, very physical and quick in wide areas.
“We’ll have to defend well, but I think we’ll be prepared and ready to go.”
One of the beneficiaries of a potential rotation of personnel could be striker Carel Kayembe, who missed out on thrilling cup victory on Merseyside.
“It’s been difficult, especially being left out for the game on Wednesday. It was hard for me but it was a great win for the lads,” said the Congolese frontman.
“I was buzzing for them as well, but it’s been hard watching the team progress so well out on the pitch and I’m on the sideline, but I’m looking to force my way through into the squad.
“I work hard and if I get the chance, I’ll make sure I keep it.”
Arsenal have the opportunity to leapfrog Saints into eighth position with a win on Saturday, whilst the hosts could rise as high as sixth should they beat the Londoners.
The visitors could field leading scorer Stephy Mavididi, who has bagged 10 games in just 12 league outings so far this term, but Limbrick is hopeful that the boost provided by Wednesday’s gritty win over the Toffees could see them over the line once more when they come up against a powerful Gunners outfit this weekend.
“I think sometimes those real defensive, combative performances where the team have to come together and fight to get the result and to get through can bring the players and the squad and the staff together, so you can see that over the last few days,” he said.
“We need to make sure we do concentrate tomorrow – it’s going to be a tough game against Arsenal so we need to go again.”
Meanwhile, Kayembe – who has made five appearances off the bench this season – is raring to go if called upon, and believes having home advantage could help his team grab their third successive win.
“It’s a chance for the team to progress, especially after the win on Wednesday against Everton, and Arsenal on Saturday will be a good game for the team as well,” said the 16-year-old.
“Everyone’s confident, the mood around the training ground is just fantastic, and everyone’s buzzing. Everyone can’t wait for the game at the weekend.
“We always seem to do well at home, with the home support. The training ground is fantastic, the pitch is fantastic.
“I’m very determined. I work hard every day on the training ground. I know I’ve got a few things to improve my game so I can be in the starting line-up for Anthony’s side.
“Anthony has faith in me, I have faith in myself, and there’s lots more to do to improve my game.”