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Saints' midfield is giving Koeman selection headache

Picking Saints' midfield is posing as Koeman's "most difficult decision" every game because of the competition in the centre of the park.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Saints boss Ronald Koeman has admitted that the competition in the Southampton midfield is making it difficult for him when he comes to picking his team.

Koeman will be without the suspended Victor Wanyama this weekend when they play Sunderland in the Premier League and has said he has a "difficult decision" to make.

"It’s an important line in your team - to control the game, to have good ball possession," Koeman told the media on Thursday.

"It’s always the most difficult decision what I have to take which player I put in the midfield and which player I put in the position to replace Victor Wanyama because we have really good competition. We have enough competition and they are making it difficult for the manager.

"First of all, we don’t have a similar player to Victor because Victor is the strongest, most physical one of all the midfield players. It’s a different type of a player that will replace Victor. Then the question is what you need in the game – you need a more defending midfield player or you need a more offensive midfielder."

Sunderland’s two penalties were enough to see off a ten man Saints side on Southampton’s last visit to the Stadium of Light and Koeman has called for his side to use that experience to get a better result against Sam Allardyce’s side.

"We had, from what I remember, a very bad 20 minutes after half time but even with 10 [men], we were the better team. From that experience we have to learn.

"If we play on our level, if we are doing what we have to do and what we are used to doing in the last few games, we are the better side.

"We know what we can expect from Sunderland. They had a big defeat against Everton. They will react, they play at home and they need points. Normally, that’s the most dangerous teams to play against.

"They [Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle] can do [similar to Romelu Lukaku and Arouna Kone’s performances in Everton’s 6-2 win over Sunderland] because we have very good strikers. I don’t think they will do that kind of mistakes that they did against Everton. Everton punished them for the mistakes they did defensive wise but we have players to create a lot of problems for them."

The Saints boss was also asked about media reports linking Southampton to Columbian winger Juan Quintero but he confirmed there was no interest and that Saints would not be likely to be active in the January transfer window.

"We don’t need midfielders. I’m very happy with the players what we have. I can’t say it for 100% because it’s football, but there won’t be new players in January."

As well as the suspended Victor Wanyama, Saints will be without Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long despite the latter being back in training.