First Team 17/01/2019

Team News: Burnley

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below for more a more in-depth preview.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia is resigned to being without Will Hughes this weekend, but is ready to integrate the fit-again Andre Gray and Christian Kabasele back into the matchday squad.

Hughes came off early at Selhurst Park with concussion and he has not trained so far this week in preparation for the visit of Burnley.

“We'll see what happens with Will because after the last game, he is not training,” said Gracia. “We need to wait and see his evolution, but it's difficult in this moment. He is not training in this moment, but maybe we will see with a good evolution in the next days. But playing in two days’ time, I am not optimistic.”

Definitely missing on Saturday is Sebastian Prödl who is still out with a knee problem and, according to Gracia, “is in the recovery process.”

But, on the plus side, Gray and Kabasele are pushing for a place on the bench after they got a full week's training under their belt. Both trained last week, but Gracia did not feel they were quite ready for the trip to Crystal Palace.

“They have both trained very well all this week and they are ready,” declared Gracia.

If Hughes, as seems likely, misses out, it will present a space in the 17-man squad to face Burnley for the likes of Gray, Adalberto Peñaranda, Nathaniel Chalobah and Ben Wilmot.

“If Will is not available there will be more chances for other players.” said Gracia. “In the last game it was Ken Sema who came on, but there are other alternatives to choose and all of them I have confidence in.”

When it comes to who replaces Hughes in the XI, Gracia will have to choose between Sema and Tom Cleverley, Saturday's match-winner.

“I am happy with Tom's behaviour because in all the time he has played, he has helped a lot with the team,” said Gracia. “I think he needs to time to improve and try to recover his level. At this moment, he is helping us a lot.”

Under-18's 17/01/2019

FA Youth Cup: Southampton Preview

By Kevin Affleck

Hayden Mullins wants his players to embrace the magic of the FA Youth Cup and have a real crack at knocking out Southampton on Thursday night.

The Hornets made it through to the fourth round on the back of a fine 1-0 win over Birmingham City, who reached the semi-final last season. Sonny Blu Lo-Everton was the match-winner on that Thursday night in December, curling in a stunning free-kick late on.

Now Mullins is challenging the Under-18s to back that up by toppling the Saints at Wingate & Finchley FC (7pm KO).

“It's a terrific game for us,” said Mullins, the club's Lead Under-23 Professional Development Coach. “The FA Youth Cup is always a competition you want to do well in and it's good for the Under-18s to have a run in it. We want to have a good shot at it.”

Mullins has a good pedigree in the competition, reaching the last four in 1996 and then the final in 1997 where the Crystal Palace side he was in lost to a Leeds United team featuring Paul Robinson, Jonathan Woodgate and Harry Kewell.

“We had two good campaigns at Palace,” Mullins said. “We got to the semis in the first year and the final in the second. I know first-hand how good a competition it is. It's a good chance to play against different opposition and pit your wits against better teams.”

Being a Category 1 Academy, Southampton do not play the Hornets in the regular season at Under-18 or Under-23 level. Their Under-18 side are sixth in a league featuring Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal while their Under-23 side are second in the Premier League 2 Division Two. They beat Rotherham 2-0 in the last round.

“We have seen a bit of them on video and the lads are going over it and looking at ways we can affect the game, but really, it is about us and what we can do on the night and how we perform,” Mullins said. “We had a really good game there last season in the Premier League Cup. We won 2-1 and put in a really good performance that night. We were really good so hopefully we can do a job on them this time.”

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