Nuno | On Raul's recovery, FA Cup run and defending free-kicks

Nuno Espirito Santo has provided an update into the recovery of Raul Jimenez, and despite his positive recover, insists that it is still to early for the Mexican striker to re-join his squad in contact training.

Jimenez has been out of action since fracturing his skull in November, but ahead of two meetings with Southampton, the first on Thursday night in the fifth round of the FA Cup, Nuno said his number nine is doing well in his recovery, but still has a long journey to go until he can return to the team.

On Jimenez’s positive consultation

“He’s doing good. We had consultation and the results are amazing, so gradually he will progress, but it’s too soon to predict an exact moment.

“He’s working by himself, but with a good intensity in his training sessions, so we are really positive and delighted that everything’s going to be OK.

“Now he’s being allowed to increase his load and his intensity, but only by working with himself. The major issue that we will face will be contact, especially heading. All the players have to be ready to head the ball. All the measures until then are by himself and he’s not allowed to have contact at training yet.

“[Wearing head protection] that’s not been discussed. It’s in everybody’s heads, but until that moment, we still have a lot of procedures to follow, trainings to do, and then we will assess that situation. Hopefully it will not be required, but it’s there, it could be a solution, but not for now. We’re not thinking about that.”

On having injured players around squad

“It’s basic. Especially in the period that we are living in, lockdown, isolated far from each other, it’s basic to stay really close to each other in tough moments.

“The moment that we or the player have the diagnostic, immediately the mindset turns on to when to come back. If you speak about a long period, that’s when you have to be really careful and stand side by side by the player, make them feel that we trust them and we’re going to help them return as quick as possible.

On Raul and Jonny supporting each other through injury

“Of course they help each other, because even before there was injuries, they were really close friends. Family friends. I know that they have been supportive of each other.”

On taking lessons from last FA Cup run

“We can take experiences from all the games, not only the good moments, the bad moments also teach you a lot. All the business finished when [the semi-final] ended. We don’t look back, we look forward.

“It’s getting all this experience ready for tomorrow. The next game is always the most highly rated game in our lives. Let’s play on Thursday. It will be very tough, then we think about rest – step by step.”

On facing Southampton twice four days

“We know we’re going to face them on Thursday and again on Sunday. It’s a tight schedule, but we have players available, so we’ll decide according to our plans.

“We’re going to face a very tough opponent tomorrow. All the teams have had tough moments, but that doesn’t take away the quality and talent of the squad of Southampton.

“We truly believe we’re going to face a very talented squad, a very good manager – we know football, anything can change from one game to another, so it’s a new game, it’s not important what was before, let’s compete. It’s the FA Cup and we want to compete well.”

On defending James Ward-Prowse’s free-kicks

“Practice. In that specific moment, we know we’re going to face a specialist. A specialist requires special attention, and this is what we’ll do. A good wall, assess properly, decide, set, and then do your job, knowing that he still has a long way to pass the wall and then our goalkeeper. It’s not easy.

“Until now, we didn’t use a player lying down behind the wall. I think it’s a solution that every team uses. We are not using it, because we have a different approach on our wall.

“This is the decision making of the goalkeeper also, because he is the one on the pitch and he needs to feel confident. It’s not only Rui, it was with John Ruddy for many, many times, he decided and we kept it with Rui.

“Why is that? Instead of jumping, we stretch on our tip toes as high as possible. But maybe for tomorrow, we have a different approach. I hope we don’t see it too many times!”