Hapoel Beer Sheva vs Southampton - Romeu is aiming to be in the thick of the action

Posted Thursday, September 29, 2016 by PA

Oriol Romeu is using the memory of watching Chelsea win the Champions League and Europa League from the sidelines to motivate him when he plays in Europe for Southampton.

The midfielder is expected to start Thursday's Europa League Group K fixture at Hapoel Be'er Sheva in Israel, and is targeting a run in the competition after the 3-0 defeat of Sparta Prague in their opening game.

He has been among those to benefit since Claude Puel succeeded Ronald Koeman as manager, becoming a regular in the Frenchman's team.

In Romeu's two seasons at Chelsea and first at Southampton he was little more than a squad player.

He spent the 2012 Champions League final as an unused substitute, when Southampton team-mate Ryan Bertrand was preferred out of position in midfield. Later that year an anterior cruciate ligament injury prematurely ended his season, which Chelsea concluded by winning the Europa League.

Asked of his memories of those occasions, the 25-year-old said: "I remember the Champions League final with Chelsea, I was on the bench, and we won, but I didn't play in the semi-final, didn't play the final.

"You feel part of it, and you feel proud of yourself and your team-mates, but in your mind it's 'I want to win it one day being there, being on the pitch'.

"(In 2012/13) I played the last game in the Champions League in the group stage, then I got the 'ACL' and couldn't play in the Europa League. I had the medal because I was in the squad, but I didn't play.

"As you go forward, every game is nicer, playing quarter-finals, semi-finals, it's all watched around Europe and the world, and we all want to be there. Who wouldn't want to win the Europa League? It's a long run, it's very hard, but we're here to give everything every game."

Hapoel are undefeated in 22 fixtures since moving to the Turner Stadium in September 2015, but Puel has chosen to rest captain Jose Fonte, top goalscorer Charlie Austin, Steven Davis and Bertrand.

He is also without the injured Jay Rodriguez, Sofiane Boufal and Jeremy Pied, but the manager - who has overseen victory in Southampton's past four fixtures - revealed he intends to continue rotating his team.

"Players stay at home because with the travel many don't have recovery (time) for (Sunday's) game with Leicester," he said. "This is the management of the squad and is important for us.

"We have to play against Leicester on Sunday just two days after this game and Leicester have five days to recover. This is important for the Europa League.

"It's important if we want for the future to continue in all the competitions to have a good squad, and this is important for me."

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