Ralph Hasenhuttl feels Armando Broja is ready for his first Premier League start but cannot guarantee he will make it when Southampton visit Manchester City, via Hampshire Live.
The Saints travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday looking to claim a first win of the top-flight season. Hasenhuttl has overseen three draws over the south coast side’s opening four fixtures, only losing on the opening day.
Broja has featured as a substitute in Southampton’s last two matches against Newcastle and West Ham. But the on-loan Chelsea forward is still waiting to open a Premier League match, following his brace on debut at Newport County in the Carabao Cup last month.
Hasenhuttl believes Broja is ready for his first Premier League start with Southampton. But the competition for places he now has available obstructs the 20-year-old’s case.
“Yes [Broja is ready],” he said. “I think we have a few players who are ready to start in the Premier League. The good thing is that I have the choice now. Last season, if you were fit you would have played. This season, we have a lot of quality and things that we can try.
“It is not about who deserves to play, it is about what we need in these games. I told the players today that it will sometimes seem unfair when they have had a good game and then are not playing. But when you need something different, you change.
“I don’t want to speak too much about what we have planned. But surprising Pep [Guardiola], it doesn’t take long for him to work it out and to counter it. We are ready for this battle and the goal is to keep the game open for as long as possible.”
Should Hasenhuttl hand Broja first Southampton league start?
Broja showed plenty of promise for Southampton when Hasenhuttl introduced the 20-year-old as a substitute against Newcastle and West Ham. He was a dynamic presence against the Irons last weekend and brought life to the Saints attack.
The Chelsea prospect provided an additional goal threat and can hold the ball up well, too. So, Broja could have a role to play against Manchester City as Hasenhuttl looks to keep the game open. But the Etihad clash could see the Austrian throw him in at the deep end.
Broja would be making the first top-flight start of his career away to the defending title-holders. The Citizens also head into the weekend full of confidence after beating RB Leipzig 6-3 in the Champions League. Five different players also scored for Guardiola, plus an own goal. While City have also only conceded once in their four league fixtures so far this term.