MEDIA VIEW: Adam Leitch on Europa League qualifier

By SFC Media Thu 27 Aug Club

Adam Leitch, chief sports writer at the Southern Daily Echo, gives his views on Southampton's UEFA Europa League play-off round second leg against FC Midtjylland.

Are Southampton still the favourites to progress?

In my eyes they are. After the first leg, traditionally the team getting an away goal and a 1-1 draw you would say on paper they were the favourites. But the way the game went, you felt Saints were getting to grips with them. I don’t think Saints played that well and I can’t imagine them playing that way again in the second leg. I think with that in mind, they are still heavy favourites to go through. Midtjylland will make it a tough night but I feel they have enough firepower and quality to get the goals they need.

In terms of getting through this tie I think it’s about finding whatever way they can. It doesn’t matter how they do it, they just need to get through and that’s all that matters.

Did Midtjylland maybe surprise one or two people in the first leg?

Yeah, I think especially after Vitesse. I think a lot of people expected another Vitesse. It was a totally one-sided affair but that was never likely to happen again. The Vitesse squad were very, very open and any team that does their homework on Saints knows that unless you’re a Chelsea or Man City and you can outgun them, park the bus is the way to go at St Mary’s. Drop deep, be well organised, defend well and hope for the best. 

I never felt Midtjylland were likely to get a goal on the counter. The only way they were going to get one was through a defensive lapse or a set-piece. I think that was a positive for Saints. They probably did surprise a few people in the fact they were good at what they set out to do.

Just how big a game is this for Southampton?

It’s a really big game. It would be disappointing to go out before the group stage. This is my 14th season covering Saints and I covered the last Europa League tie. I covered the Steaua Bucharest game and I can remember how disappointing that was. This isn’t quite falling at the first hurdle but to not get to the group stage would feel like that. This is a huge game for them because at least you’ve got the bonus of another six European games. For a club of Southampton’s stature that’s a significant thing.

Are you confident Saints can get the goals that they need?

Very confident. They’ve got some fantastic options going forward. It will be interesting to see the way they set up and play because arguably they were better against Midtjylland when they went a bit more direct to Graziano Pellè in the second half. They caused a lot more problems so I wouldn’t be surprised if they do that again. I don’t expect any different from Midtjylland - they will defend deep and run the clock down from minute one. You only have to look at the options on the bench too to see they’ve got far greater quality.

Which player do you feel will be crucial for Saints?

It sounds obvious but I think Pellè is important because Midtjylland are so big, physical and strong. I think a lot is going to depend on Pellè. He will have to take a lot of hits, because they will look to play into him and feed off him. If he can stand up to that and win his share of balls in the air, I think Saints could win relatively comfortably.

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