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West Bromwich Albion

Carlos Corberan outlines what West Brom need to produce in search of Wembley

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The Baggies’ campaign comes to a dramatic head at Southampton tonight where the Championship play-off semi-final will be decided at St Mary’s.

The visitors remain, as they were before last weekend’s goalless first leg, the underdogs. Russell Martin’s hosts will be roared on by a 32,000 sell-out crowd, where there will be more onus on the Saints to get the job wrapped up with minimal fuss.

 

What the first leg should have done, ahead of tonight, is inject Albion’s squad with belief – despite the uphill task of travelling away from their boisterous Hawthorns home.

Asked about his squad’s confidence and belief at reaching Wembley, Corberan replied: “I think we always need to have the maximum level of confidence and determination to compete.”

For the Spaniard, though, it is no good arriving with confidence alone.

“But at the same time we need the strong mentality that helps us to compete,” he added. “If you just have confidence but you are not activated enough to compete – you can have confidence but it can disappear in 20 seconds.

“Because when you play it is not only confidence you need. Do you need confidence? Of course. But you need resilience in the same level.

“So it’s a mix – a strong mentality, commitment, resilience, everything together is necessary to achieve the result we want.”

 

Corberan’s troops have been steadfast in their belief this season. Albion were not talked about as a play-off contender, but the squad believed in the head coach and its potential. Even when fifth for six months unbroken, there was little hype around the Baggies’ efforts.

Once they were paired with Southampton – relegated from the Premier League with a squad packed full of quality – Albion were given little hope.

Sunday’s first leg, though, showed the teams were more closely matched than many thought. The stalemate, not a thriller but not a dull 0-0, could have quite easily finished 2-2 were goalkeepers Alex Palmer and Alex McCarthy not on their games.

 

Albion certainly gave a mentally-strong performance full of commitment and resilience in the first leg, where they limited free-scoring Saints to just two clear chances, one from a rare home error, and the other a counter-attack from the hosts’ best chance.

The Saints’ haul of 87 goals was just shy of Leicester and Ipswich totals – though an open playing style saw tonight’s hosts ship 63 goals, 16 more than the Baggies.

“If you don’t defend well against Southampton it’s impossible to achieve a clean sheet,” Corberan said. “They have scored 17 goals more than us, they are a very good team in attack. At the same time we have conceded less goals than them.

“This is football, impose your strengths using the weakness, but this is what both teams try to do.”

 

Corberan has been in no mood to hide his excitement for this evening, though. He said managing Albion at Wembley is his “dream”.

“Of course we are excited, we look forward to play in these games, we know how important it is,” he said. “Would I like to have three games more to prepare? Yes, I always want more and the more to prepare the better.

“But now is not a moment to train a lot, for the physical demandings, for the weather conditions, for the timing of the game, and the fact we don’t have a lot of days between and will travel there.

“It makes up prioritise the game understanding and make us arrive with tactical clarity and without lots of physical impact that can affect us negatively.”

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