Southampton manager Alan Pardew is faced with some tricky selection dilemmas ahead of the club’s first visit to the new Wembley Stadium in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.
Saints are just one place above opponents Carlisle in the League One table, but will vastly outnumber the Cumbrians in the stands, with an estimated 44,000 supporters set to descend on the national stadium from the south coast.
Talisman Rickie Lambert took his tally to 30 goals for the season by getting on the scoresheet in the 3-2 win over Hartlepool at St Mary’s in midweek, enhancing his growing reputation as one of English football’s most prolific marksmen.
Lambert is surely a nailed-on starter for Pardew, but the supporting cast is less certain, with four of his teammates cup-tied and therefore unavailable for the final.
Jon Otsemobor (Norwich), Dan Seaborne (Exeter), Jason Puncheon (MK Dons) and Lee Barnard (Southend) have all featured in the competition for other clubs already this season.
French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is a doubt after being substituted in the Hartlepool victory with a tight hamstring, but another of Saints’ exciting youngsters, Adam Lallana, has been passed fit.
Two of Pardew’s more experienced campaigners, Wayne Thomas (calf) and Graeme Murty (ankle), remain sidelined.
Dan Harding could be set to continue out of position at right-back, with Radhi Jaïdi and Chris Perry in contention to start in the centre of defence.
Pacey wide man Michail Antonio, who celebrates his 20th birthday on the day of the final, is an option to replace Puncheon on the right flank, while Paul Wotton, Lloyd James and David Connolly are also hoping to feature.