Southampton boss Ronald Koeman lowers sights to Europa League

Ronald Koeman Southampton v Stoke City

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Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has given up hope of qualifying for the Champions League this season, but he feels the Europa League is still within their grasp.

The Saints needed to win against Stoke on Saturday to keep alive their slim hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.

And, despite going in front courtesy of a Morgan Schneiderlin goal in the first half, the Potters equalised through Mame Diouf following an error by Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davis and Charlie Adam sealed a 2-1 win with a goal six minutes from time.

It leaves the Saints in sixth position – five points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who could stretch the gap to eight points if they defeat West Ham at the Etihad Stadium later on Sunday.

As a result Koeman feels the Champions League is now out of reach but he is confident that they can qualify for Europe via the Europa League in their remaining five matches.

The Dutch tactician said: “The distance to fourth place is five points. Maybe (on Sunday) it will be eight.

“We are fighting for a Europa League place – that’s our Champions League. You have to see it like that.”

Koeman had hoped to become the first manager to guide Southampton – who are on offer at 34.00 to finish in the top four – to the Champions League, but he accepts it was always going to be difficult to compete with the Premier League’s big guns “because of the players they have and can buy”.

He added: “Still, I think we are in a very good position. We know our level.

“We try to play good football. That’s the quality of the team.”

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