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Southampton manager Ronald Koeman can't wait to get his first taste of a south-coast derby when Bournemouth visit St Mary's on Sunday.
Koeman relishing rare derby showdown

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman can't wait to get his first taste of a south-coast derby when Bournemouth visit St Mary's on Sunday.

With Southampton's traditional enemies Portsmouth currently languishing in the fourth tier, Bournemouth's arrival in the Premier League this season has given Koeman's side a genuine local rival to spar with.

Just 31 miles separate St Mary's from Bournemouth's Dean Court, but the clubs have met only three times -- all in the 2010-11 season -- in the last 27 years and have faced off just 21 times ever.

While no-one would place this fledgling rivalry in the same category as the fierce clashes between Manchester United and Manchester City or Arsenal and Tottenham, Koeman believes passions will be running high on the south coast this weekend and the Dutchman is delighted by that development.

"In my opinion it's a derby but maybe not the biggest one, because there's not a lot of history between both clubs," Koeman said.

"I hope that they will stay in the Premier League so that we will get a few years in a row to play against each other.

"Normally, it makes it a little bit easier for the manager because the players have that feeling of it being a derby.

"Everybody will have more attention to the game, and that makes it a little bit more special. You need that to be successful."

- Key contributors -

Southampton defender Jose Fonte is the only survivor from his team's last showdowns with Bournemouth in League One and it would be little surprise if he finished on the winning side again.

Koeman will be without injured strikers Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long, but their absences have down little to slow Southampton's progress during a six-match unbeaten run that includes a 3-1 win at champions Chelsea and a midweek victory over Aston Villa that took them into the League Cup quarter-finals.

Italian forward Graziano Pelle and Senegal winger Sadio Mane have been key contributors, with 10 goals combined in the last seven matches.

"Of course they are important players because they are scoring goals," Koeman said.

"They are important, but the rest of the team gives them the chance to score. I am happy if they continue like this."

Although there is little recent history between the clubs, Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc provides a link having played for Saints for three years until joining Eddie Howe's team in May.

However, the erratic former Celtic goalkeeper missed Wednesday's 1-0 League Cup defeat at Liverpool with a thigh problem and Howe will leave it until the last minute before deciding to recall him or stick with deputy Adam Federici.

"Selecting a goalkeeper has been a difficult decision every game we've had this season," Howe said.

"With all team selections, since I've been a manager, it's been 'pick the right player for this game, regardless of any historical association with that club'.

"Artur's been fine mentally. He's had treatment this week on his thigh, so we haven't seen him on the training ground.

"A lot will be fitness-depending. Artur's had his thigh problem it's been well documented he pulled out of the Manchester City game with, so we'll wait and see if he's fit and make a decision between the two."

Source: Steven GRIFFITHS/ AFP
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