Southampton’s Europa League campaign could work in Norwich City’s favour

Steven Whittaker lashes home Norwich City's second in a 3-1 Premier League win at Sunderland. Pictur

Steven Whittaker lashes home Norwich City's second in a 3-1 Premier League win at Sunderland. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil serenely dealt with the fall-out from Lewis Grabban's wobble at Rotherham but it's Southampton counterpart Ronald Koeman who appears to have more cause for concern ahead of Norwich City's Premier League trip.

The Saints look a pale shadow of the squad who powered to a second consecutive top eight finish last season in a fitful start to the new campaign that leaves them winless in the league and out of the Europa League following a tame midweek exit in Denmark.

'I think when you do have success expectation will always go through the roof,' said Neil.

'Fans, in particular, as soon as you have had a good season the next time you should then be challenging for this or that, which is not always the case. Sometimes you have done really well to get into that position to start with so in that context trying to improve again can be difficult.

'They are very similar to Stoke; a great example of a club who have come up through the Championship into the Premier League and managed to stabilise themselves but also bring in some good talent and move them on for large sums, yet maintain that real competitive edge.

'They have lost quite a few players over recent years but it's still the basis of a really good squad and the fact they were in Europe just shows how well they did last year.'

Neil conceded Southampton's exertions in Denmark on Thursday night must work in Norwich's favour, with Koeman selecting a first choice line-up for their Europa League tie.

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'We hope it is a factor and of course any advantage helps,' he said.

'It is common knowledge teams in the Europa League generally find it tougher when they come back after a fixture and we hope that is the case. We hope those guys who featured for 90 minutes have to go again on Sunday. We want to exploit any advantage we can get, but Southampton have a big squad, a good squad, and they are more than well-equipped to cope.'

Saints' boss Koeman earned plenty of plaudits for his impact last season in a seamless transition from Mauricio Pochettino, but Neil feels the Dutchman's appointment marked a departure rather than simple continuity.

'Coaches will always make tweaks,' he said.

'Maybe for spectators just watching the game you don't see the changes but certainly as a coach they have definitely got a different style with how they move with and without the ball.

'It has certainly changed since he went in. He is bringing that Dutch mentality in the way they play. They want to keep possession of the ball, they are quick to get after it when they don't have it. They have good energy in the group and we are going to have to make sure we match all those things and try and impose our style of play on them.'

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