Ralph Hasenhüttl has been showing Southampton’s players motivational videos to inspire them to bring their A-game to Wembley for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Leicester. Southampton have not conceded a goal in the Cup this season and have eliminated the holders, Arsenal, but an alarming dip in Premier League form has dropped them to 14th.
Southampton lost 3-0 to West Brom last Monday and Hasenhüttl insists his players must take advantage of the Cup having “its own rules”. He said: “I hope we see the ‘Cup team’. This is a team that hasn’t conceded one goal in the competition so far. This is the basics, the fundamental of being successful and having a chance to go to the next round.
“We, very early, started speaking about how important the Cup is for us. For smaller clubs like we are it is always good to have this target in your mind. When we are hungry and we know what we have to hunt for, then we are strong. This is what we expect on the weekend. The face we have shown in the FA Cup so far is a very good one. A Cup final definitely can turn things 100%, around 360 degrees and then it would be a super-successful season, definitely.”
Leicester v Southampton
Four thousand spectators will attend Sunday's Southampton v Leicester FA Cup semi-final, all socially distanced in clumps of two. It will be the first time in 2021 that fans will be allowed to watch a football match in this country, as part of a test event to "managing and mitigate transmission risk”.
Tickets were made available via ballot to Brent council, NHS and care staff, teachers and local residents. All attendees must return at least one negative lateral flow Covid-19 test in the 24 hours before the game, and must take a PCR home test after the event. Saturday's semi-final between Chelsea and Manchester City remains behind closed doors.
Carabao Cup final
The capacity for next Sunday's game doubles to 8,000 – 4,000 as above, plus 2,000 fans each from Tottenham and Manchester City, who have to sign consent forms and take a number of tests. Fans under 18 cannot attend, and neither can fans in clinically vulnerable categories. Level Playing Field – a charity that campaigns for equal access for disabled fans – called the decision “very disappointing”.
The FA Cup final and beyond
It is planned for 21,000 fans to attend the FA Cup final on 15 May, with all grounds open for at least 25% capacity by 17 May. England’s Euro 2020 group matches at Wembley will have 22,500 fans, with the aim of doubling that to 45,000 for the semi-finals and final. The Premier League hopes to have up to 10,000 home fans at the final two rounds of games this season. The current government roadmap lifts all mixing restrictions on 21 June.
Hasenhüttl hopes showing players footage of some of their finest moments this season will smooth a path to a first Cup final victory since 1976, when Bobby Stokes scored the only goal. “I don’t know yet what the last thing I will tell them before they go out onto the pitch will be but we are working on some videos, motivational videos,” he said.
“I think we did it before the Portsmouth game [which Southampton won 4-0 in 2019],” he said. “This year we have done looking at our games and what we have done right over the last weeks and months. It is always helpful for a player to see some good moves from him, some good goals, some good tackles to get motivated.”
Southampton reached the Carabao Cup final four years ago, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped Manchester United to victory, and last reached the FA Cup final in 2003. Hasenhüttl is aiming to overturn a wretched personal record in cups, dating back to his time in Germany. “My stats are horrible,” the Austrian said. “Maybe this is the year when everything comes together because I lost so often in penalty shootouts, or there were horrible games where we were 2-0 up and lost it. My cup record is completely opposite what I have done in the leagues.”
Southampton have been lauded for their all-action performances at times this season but Hasenhüttl acknowledged victory is all that matters at Wembley. “In this game, there is nothing about beautiful play or beautiful football players,” he said. “It is more about taking the win. It is about doing everything to have one goal more than the opponent. For this, you cannot look to have some beautiful moves or something like that.
“We need to be successful on Sunday. To be successful you have to be very committed, work very hard against the ball to not concede a goal.”