Southampton will get their Carabao Cup campaign up and running with a trip to Fulham in the second round.
The draw was made on Tuesday night, and despite the annual anticipation of Saints fans far and wide, with dreams of a derby clash against Portsmouth being revealed, it was not to be.
However, a testing away fixture awaits Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men, and Fulham will be no pushovers in the second round.
Scott Parker is hoping to lead his team back to the Premier League at the first time of asking this season, so his focus is highly unlikely to be on the Carabao Cup.
Nevertheless, a chance to claim a scalp over top-flight opposition is never one to be overlooked, and Southampton will be in for a close match at Craven Cottage.
Hasenhuttl, too, is likely to prioritise the league, but the Austrian does have a good opportunity in the cup competitions to hand some of his lesser-seen first-team players valuable game time.
So, just who needs to impress for Saints in the Carabao Cup this season? I’ve identified six in particular.
Armstrong wasn’t even in the 18-man squad for the trip to Burnley last weekend. He creative midfielder must find a way to work himself back into Hasenhuttl’s thinking, and shining in the Carabao Cup may be his best bet.
Obafemi is a hugely promising talent and is likely to make numerous substitute appearances throughout the season. However, he may be handed starts in the cup competitions and will be desperate to prove his credentials.
Cedric will not be enjoying acting as a backup to 20-year-old Yan Valery. As such, he will need to show Hasenhuttl what he is made of when chances come his way. His first appearance of the season could well come at Fulham.
Djenepo may find first-team opportunities hard to come by in his first season at the club. He is competing with Nathan Redmond, Sofiane Boufal and possibly even James Ward-Prowse for places when Hasenhuttl opts to deploy wide players. Therefore, as he is bedded into English football carefully by Saints, thriving in the Carabao Cup would be a good start for the new signing.
Long’s qualities are known to Hasenhuttl, but he still has a point to prove. Danny Ings and Che Adams are seemingly preferred up top at the moment, and the experienced Irishman will be desperate to push back into the starting line-up. Leading the line effectively in cup outings would give the boss some food for thought.
Boufal, like Djenepo, appears to be one of the options who Hasenhuttl will have at his disposal from the bench this season. However, the Moroccan will undoubtedly want more than that, and if he is given a rare start – perhaps against Fulham in a couple of weeks – he will need to grab the opportunity with both hands.