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Koeman backs "dangerous" Long

Ronald Koeman has backed Shane Long to lead the line well for Southampton with Graziano Pelle suspended.

Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Ronald Koeman has backed Shane Long to deliver up front with Graziano Pelle suspended for this weekend's trip to Manchester City.

The Saints boss was talking to the press as his side look to maintain their current unbeaten away record this season.

With Graziano Pelle suspended for the weekend's match after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the final moments in the defeat to Stoke, Koeman confirmed that Long will lead the line for Saints.

"Always you are missing a player who normally always starts the games," Koeman told reporters.

"It’s the top scorer in the team. But last season we played without Graziano against Chelsea away. We had a good result.

"I still remember what John Terry mentioned after the game that he found it so tough to play against Shane Long. It’s a different player, different qualities but also a very dangerous front player."

Koeman is adamant that despite missing Pelle's physical presence upfront, Saints will not have to change their style completely but adapt it to the Republic of Ireland international.

"The style will be the same. We try to play football, we build up from the back but of course direct play needs to be changed a little bit. That’s also football, that you realise the qualities of the rest of the players and to give him that support.

"He was a long time injured, he played 90 minutes last weekend and he will start again."

Saints may face a Manchester City team who also will be looking to cope with absentees with Joe Hart coming off injured in his side's match against Juventus in midweek. Koeman admits that that factor may make it difficult for Pellegrini's side.

"They have some big injuries in key players. Even for City it’s difficult for them to handle that in all the number of games what they have to play. We have problems when we have some players that are not available but also they have some problems.

"Big teams have two or three good goalkeepers. Of course, it’s the national goalkeeper, he’s showing that he is the best.

"It’s an important position in the team but the second and the third goalkeepers of Man City are good goalkeepers, they play a lot of games but not so much in the Premier League. Maybe that experience in the Premier League will be different than experience of Joe Hart."

Koeman also believes that Manchester City's European travels may help his side in maintaining their unbeaten away record.

"If it’s still a good result at that moment [late on in the game], it can be tougher for them in the last 20 minutes. But then you have to play the first 70 minutes on a high level to beat and even to draw the game at that moment."