Mauricio Pochettino says that, while he is disappointed to lose Morgan Schneiderlin for tomorrow’s trip to Everton, the Frenchman’s suspension opens doors for other players to impress.
Schneiderlin picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign in Saints’ Boxing Day win at Cardiff City, ruling him out of the side’s final match of 2013.
That suspension will come as a disappointment for the midfielder, who successfully negotiated a disciplinary tightrope at the end of 2012 having reached the four-booking point in early November.
But he found himself out of luck this year, meaning Pochettino will be forced into at least one change to the team for tomorrow’s game at Goodison Park.
James Ward-Prowse is the likely beneficiary of Schneiderlin’s absence, with the manager looking to take positives from the situation.
“We always want to have our quality players – our best players – on the pitch,” said Pochettino.
“On this occasion we won't have Morgan available but that will give another player the opportunity to come in and play as well or even better.
“It is a shame that we lose certain players because of bans or injuries but there are others available to us that will want to impress.”
Dejan Lovren could return to the squad after missing out at the Cardiff City Stadium having fallen ill overnight.
The Croatian defender joined in training on Friday, as did Nathaniel Clyne, who has been out since Saints’ home defeat to Aston Villa at the start of the month.
The pair will be assessed ahead of the game, but could find starting berths hard to find at Goodison Park with the side having just recorded its first clean sheet in eight games on Boxing Day.
As for Everton, Pochettino is expecting to face a difficult opponent that has lost only once at home all season.
That defeat came on Boxing Day, when the Toffees were beaten by lowly Sunderland having seen goalkeeper Tim Howard sent off.
The American stopper will miss tomorrow’s match, as will midfielder Gareth Barry, who – like Schneiderlin – accumulated his fifth caution of the season in his side’s last match.
Nevertheless, Pochettino believes Saints are in for a difficult occasion in tomorrow’s early kick-off.
“Under David Moyes they were a tough side who were always fighting for the first seven or eight positions,” said the Southampton manager.
“Now they have a great manager in Roberto Martinez – I know him from a long time ago and he has been in England a long time now.
“He deserves everything that he has been getting recently because he has fully earned it.
“They have made some fantastic signings so I am well aware that we will be facing a very tough side.”