Inter Milan v Southampton preview: Full-back injuries for Saints
Last Updated: 20/10/16 5:09pm
Southampton will play in one of the most high-profile European matches in their history when they travel to the San Siro to face Inter Milan on Thursday evening.
In their first ever competitive match against a Serie A team, Claude Puel knows victory would see his side move seven points clear of their opponents in the race to reach the Europa League knockout stages.
Southampton sit joint top of Group K after beating Sparta Prague and drawing with Hapoel Be'er Sheva, while Inter are bottom after losing to the same two opponents.
Inter are currently 11th in Serie A after three defeats from their opening eight games, despite heavy investment in their squad during the summer.
A row between Mauro Icardi and the club's fans has dominated the build-up to the match in Italy after the publication of the club captain's controversial autobiography.
Inter's Ultras produced banners that claimed he was a mercenary and even cheered when he missed a penalty in their recent 2-1 defeat by Cagliari.
Puel will have to cope with injuries to his first-choice full-backs on Thursday night. Cedric Soares, Jeremy Pied, Ryan Bertrand and Matt Targett are all absent, meaning Cuco Martina and Sam McQueen - who could make his first start for the club at the San Siro - are expected to deputise.
Fit-again club-record signing Sofiane Boufal is available for the first time since his summer arrival, but the in-form Nathan Redmond has been rested and has not travelled to Milan.
Inter coach Frank de Boer has hinted midfielder Marcelo Brozovic could return to the team after being frozen out since the defeat to Hapoel Be'er Sheva in September.
Both Geoffrey Kondogbia and Joao Mario are unavailable for the Italians.
This will be the first ever meeting between Inter Milan and Southampton. Inter have faced 11 different English sides before in European competition (including Fairs Cup).
Inter Milan's most recent games against an English side saw them eliminated by Spurs in the last 16 in 2012/13. They lost 3-0 away before winning the second leg 4-1, only to go out on away goals.
Southampton have failed to score in six of their last seven European away matches (including qualifiers). This is the first time they've played in Italy in European competition.
Inter have lost their last four games in European competition. Only once before have they done this, losing four consecutively in the Fairs Cup in 1961.
Charlie Austin has scored from two of his three shots in this competition so far.
Only Zorya Luhansk (21.4 per cent) have a lower shooting accuracy than Inter Milan this season in the Europa League group stage (26.1 per cent).
James Ward-Prowse has created more chances for Southampton than any other player has for the Saints so far in the Europa League (6).
Charlie Nicholas' prediction
We know that this Inter Milan team aren't a great one, but it will still be a great experience for Southampton to play at the San Siro.
The Saints are going well. They are defensively nice and solid and they're scoring more goals now with Charlie Austin getting another couple on Sunday. Nathan Redmond is also playing well.
However, Virgil van Dijk is probably their most important player. He's good in the air, he's not the quickest over five yards but he's quick over 15-20, and he's great on the ball. He's quite like John Stones with a bit more muscle.
He can take a risk as well. He got away with a stonewall penalty against Burnley and I'd suggest he'd be unlikely to get away with that if he did it again in the San Siro.
I do wonder whether Southampton will create enough chances. I reckon Claude Puel and might want to give Shane Long a game and play on the counter-attack to cancel out their hosts.