October 20, 2016Print : Sports
PARIS: Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster is looking for the Premier League club to make “a massive statement” by beating Italian giants Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday (today).
The Saints travel to the San Siro — and as many as seven thousand of their fans are expected to follow them — knowing a win at the home of the three-time European champions would be a big step towards progressing to the knockout phase from Group K.
It would also be another memorable result for a club who were in the third tier of English football just five years ago.
Southampton, who are fresh from beating Burnley 3-1 in the Premier League at the weekend, have so far beaten Sparta Prague 3-0 and drawn 0-0 away in Israel to Hapoel Beer-Sheva.
In contrast, Inter are struggling. Frank de Boer was only appointed in the summer but the Dutchman’s side have lost two out of two in the Europa League and are in the bottom half of the Serie A table after a 2-1 home defeat to Cagliari at the weekend.
Meanwhile, star striker and captain Mauro Icardi’s future at the club is in the air after Inter supporters reacted furiously to comments he made about them in a recently-published autobiography.
It is all a far cry from the days under Jose Mourinho when Inter won the Champions League in 2010. Mourinho’s current side Manchester United entertain Fenerbahce in Group A at Old Trafford.
United have four points from two games before a rematch with the Turkish giants, with whom they have a bit of history.
Fenerbahce inflicted a first ever European home defeat on United back in 1996, while eight years later Wayne Rooney hit a hat-trick against the same team on his European debut.
The Istanbul side are not in good form as they travel to England with former United striker Robin van Persie, now 33, in their baggage.
In Dublin, Irish surprise package Dundalk must try to shake off fatigue as they host 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg.
After falling just short of reaching the Champions League group stage, Dundalk have drawn away to AZ Alkmaar and beaten Maccabi Tel Aviv in Group D to stay in touch with leaders Zenit.
But as they close in on another Irish league title, boss Stephen Kenny admits the number of games they have faced is beginning to take its toll.
In other action, French league leaders Nice are looking for their first win in Group I when they visit Salzburg but will be missing star striker Mario Balotelli in Austria due to an adductor problem.