REUTERS – Manager Ronald Koeman will hand defender Steven Caulker a rare start when Southampton take on Liverpool in Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final.
Caulker, who joined Southampton on loan from Queens Park Rangers in the close season but has started just five games for the club in all competitions, comes into the side in place of injured skipper Jose Fonte.
The 23-year-old came on as a first-half substitute after Fonte was forced off during the first half of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat by Manchester City and Koeman has backed him to match Liverpool striker Christian Benteke’s physicality.
“Steven is as strong as Benteke,” Koeman was quoted as saying by the British media. “And that’s not a problem for Steven because he is physically a strong defender and has the confidence to start.
“Maybe he had some difficulties in the beginning and of course Jose was in front and Virgil (van Dijk) in front in both positions Steven can play, and I’m not a manager who changes a lot if the team is doing well, but now, that’s always the question to the players, when they get the chance, you have to take it.
“And that’s also the reason after Saturday that I said to Steven he will start.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)