Yoshida urges Saints to make swift Europa progress
REUTERS - Southampton defender Maya Yoshida has called on his team mates to do everything to ensure the side can progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League as quickly as possible.
Southampton, who are second in Group K on seven points, travel to leaders Sparta Prague on Thursday, while third-placed Hapoel Be'er Sheva of Israel play struggling Italian side Inter Milan in the fifth round of fixtures.
Hapoel need to win to keep their hopes of qualifying alive, while the Saints are guaranteed to progress if they beat Sparta and the Israeli side lose or draw.
"We are almost through to the next round but these winning points are really important for us... we have to make sure we get them," Japanese international Yoshida told the club website. (www.southamptonfc.com)
"We already played against (Sparta) at home, so we know about them.
"I think it's going to be very, very tough, especially an away game against them... maybe a different atmosphere in the stadium. We have to be ready for that."
Southampton beat Sparta 3-0 at St Mary's in September but have found goals hard to come by on their travels in Europe, scoring just once in their last eight away games on the continent.
Sparta, on the other hand, have not beaten an English team since 1983.
Saints midfielder and Northern Ireland international Steven Davies identified the team's lack of a cutting edge as a cause for concern.
"We haven't been clinical enough throughout the team and we obviously need to spread that responsibility through the team," he said.
(Reporting by Debanjan Bose in Bengaluru)