SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: All change as Saints look to the league

Cup clash: Nigel Adkins is set to leave out striker Rickie Lambert
Cup clash: Nigel Adkins is set to leave out striker Rickie Lambert

SOUTHAMPTON have bigger fish to fry than the Capital One Cup.

Their main priority is to stay in the Premier League following back-to-back promotions. It certainly would not be disaster for the Saints if they bowed out of the cup tonight as an early exit from the competition would allow them to concentrate on picking up points in the league.

Southampton began their first campaign back in Premier League since 2005 in the worst possible fashion, losing all four opening fixtures.

The new boys could not have asked for a tougher start with home clashes with Wigan Athletic and Manchester United sandwiched in between trips to the Etihad Stadium and the Emirates.

But the Saints moved off the foot of the table and broke their duck in stunning style last weekend, coming from a goal behind to thrash fellow strugglers Aston Villa 4-1 thanks to goals from Rickie Lambert (2) Nathaniel Clyne and a Ciaran Clark own goal.

Adkins said: “We put on a really good performance, we controlled the ball for long spells and excited our supporters, who were outstanding.

“They’ve been unbelievable since I’ve been here and I wouldn’t expect them to turn as they know how hard we all work.

“We want to be in the upper echelons of the Premier League. We’re together as one and we showed that.”

Since his appointment two years ago, Adkins has led Southampton to two runner-up finishes. His impressive record reads 62 victories, 18 draws and 24 losses from 104 outings.

Yet speculation is growing Adkins is in danger of losing his job following the team’s sluggish start to the 2012/13 season.

“I’ve got a great working relationship with the chairman here at Southampton and we share a common goal,” Adkins recently said. “We’ve had a great couple of seasons and there is stability here at Southampton, so we don’t even think about things like that.

“I have got my own desire to keep winning games of football because we have that winning mentality here at Southampton.”

With Premier League survival the top objective, Adkins may change his entire starting line-up against Sheffield Wednesday. He made 11 alterations in the comfortable second round tie victory over Stevenage.

Top performers, including Lambert and Adam Lallana, are unlikely to figure, with a daunting trip to Everton on the horizon.

Artur Boruc could be given a run-out, having left Fiorentina in the summer. Adkins is spoilt for choice with goalkeepers as the Saints possess Boruc, Paulo Gazzaniga and Kelvin Davis.

Adkins said: “Artur has great experience from Celtic and Fiorentina, and from playing for the national team in Poland.

“He now gives us a third goalkeeper in the building, which is important because the potential for injuries and people getting sent off means we have to cover ourselves. He gives us great back-up and competition.”

Adkins decided to drop club captain Davis in between the sticks in the wake of Southampton’s poor start.

“Kelvin Davis has been outstanding since I joined this football club,” insisted Adkins.

“He’s the ultimate professional and a major player in what’s happened at Southampton in the last few years.

“But I have to make a decision, that’s what I’m paid to do.

Midfielder Jack Cork is pressing for a first-team recall, having shaken off an ankle problem he sustained on England Under-21 duty. Cork has not played this season. Emmanuel Mayuka, a £3.5 million signing from Young Boys, is also in contention to make his first start after two substitute appearances.

Adkins could leave out club-record signing Gaston Ramirez ahead of the clash of the Goodison Park. The £12m attacker did not disappoint versus Villa, putting in a mesmeric display behind Lambert and exquisitely setting up Clyne for his goal.

“He is something special,” Lambert said of the Uruguay international. “Straight away when he came in the building I knew at training he was a bit special.”