Saints midfielder on Inter clash
The visit of Internazionale to St Mary’s this week may, by itself, be a wonderful occasion for Southampton – but, for Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, that alone is simply not enough.
“We’ve not come to just watch,” says the midfielder. “We've come to participate, we've come to show that we have something to say in Europe.
“We want to be seen, we want to be heard and we want to be respected. It all starts in the game against Inter.”
This Thursday’s UEFA Europa League game is indeed a vital one, for both clubs.
We should not feel afraid. we have shown what we are capable of, and we can beat a club that big.Pierre-emile højbjerg
Saints have four points at the midway stage of their Group K campaign, leaving them two back of current leaders Sparta Praha.
Inter’s 1-0 win at San Siro two weeks ago puts them just one point behind Claude Puel’s side, and a victory for either team would likely be pivotal.
For Saints, a win would not just significantly strengthen their chances of reaching the knockout rounds, it would also surely stand out as one of the landmark results in their history.
"It's a huge club,” says Højbjerg. “Only six years ago they won the treble and were the kings of Europe. To get the opportunity to play a club like this, not for me only, but for the team and for the club, it's a rare moment.
“We should not feel afraid, we should not feel under pressure, we should not feel dragged down playing such a big club, because we have shown what we are capable of and we can beat a club that big, because Southampton is also a big club.
"We have a very good mentality in the team, we have a very good spirit and we feel that everybody is on the same way of thinking and pursuing the goals and the targets of the season.
“One of the targets of the season is of course to win the home game against Inter Milan. Maybe a draw can also be a good result, but we need to deliver a good game and a good result, then after that we hope we can be in a good position.”
It certainly promises to be a special night, with a full house under the lights at St Mary’s, and the sense the excitement Højbjerg is feeling is clearly apparent.
"When you then have the opportunity to measure yourself with the big teams and the big players in Europe, that's what it's all about,” he says. “To measure yourself, to see how far you have come, how good are you as a team and then just to give everything, because nights like these are one of a kind and you have the opportunity to make them unforgettable.”
So, what odds of Saints doing just that, and making Thursday a night that will be forever be treasured in the club’s history?
the best team will win... and i know that we are the best team!pierre-emile højbjerg
“We feel comfortable as a team, we feel strong, we can rely on each other and first of all it's about enjoying, being happy and going into these games with a big smile because, opportunities like these, you dream of them as a kid,” says Højbjerg.
“You have the best possible job, you can make the game and the play that you love as your living. Not that many have that opportunity, and if you then get a game against Inter Milan you have to enjoy it, you have to be thankful that you get opportunities like that and just go out and enjoy the 90, 95 minutes and give all you have – nothing more can be asked, but to give all what you have.
“After that, the best team will win.” Pausing, Højbjerg smiles before adding: “And I know that we are the best team!”