Eriksson confident Leicester's second string can handle Cardiff

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The Independent Football

Leicester manager Sven Goran Eriksson has backed his fringe players to cause Cardiff problems in the Carling Cup tonight. The third-round tie at the Cardiff City Stadium is the first of two meetings in the space of five days between the clubs, with the sides set to clash again in the league in south Wales on Sunday.

Eriksson sees the way the fixtures have fallen as less than ideal, but the former England head coach insisted yesterday that he has the squad to cope. "We have two difficult matches against Cardiff in quick succession and they are very important games. Maybe the Championship match is even more important than tomorrow," Eriksson said.

"The only bad luck is the draw because it means we are playing the same opposition away twice in the same week.

"I don't see the Carling Cup as a distraction and we want to go through to the next round, but we will alter things. We have a big squad and it is a good opportunity for many other players.

"It doesn't matter who plays, if we play like we know we can, teams will not live with us. That must be our aim.

"We are unbeaten over our last five games in all competitions and we want to keep that going. We want to follow the win [over Brighton on Saturday] with another one."

Eriksson added: "Steve Howard might start and Michael Johnson will start for sure. He has looked good in training and played a reserve game last Tuesday and looked very good. We hope he will play the full 90 minutes."

Chris Weale, Sean St Ledger, Michael Ball, Lloyd Dyer, Franck Moussa, Neil Danns and teenage striker Jeffrey Schlupp, who has scored four goals in the competition this season, could also start for the Foxes. Cardiff manager Malky Mackay acknowledged Leicester's strength in depth but insisted his players will be ready for whatever team Eriksson puts out.

"Leicester will be very tough opponents," said Mackay, who is also set to utilise his squad for the tie. "The power of their squad has been well documented. They have enough to put two good teams out against us over the next week.

"But we are fully prepared as always and fully focused on Wednesday night because the Carling Cup is a big competition. It is important for us to keep our good form going, even if there is rotation in the squad."

Tom Heaton, Rob Earnshaw, Darcy Blake, Rudy Gestede and Joe Mason will all be pushing to start having been named on the bench for the 1-1 draw at Blackpool on Saturday.

Paul Quinn, Dekel Keinan, Gabor Gyepes and Jon Parkin will also come into the reckoning, but Ben Turner and Stephen McPhail are doubts.

Mackay does not think that the result of tonight's cup tie will have much bearing on the league meeting in five days' time. He added: "It could give the winners a slight edge but we will have to wait and see."

Southampton will be without Danny Fox when they host Preston tonight as the defender is cup-tied. With Dan Harding also likely to miss out due to a knee injury, Ryan Dickson could be handed a rare start at left-back.

Manager Nigel Adkins will make further changes following Sunday's 4-1 win over Birmingham with back-up goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski set for another run-out in place of Kelvin Davis.

Aaron Martin, Lee Holmes, Morgan Schneiderlin, Richard Chaplow, Steve de Ridder and Jonathan Forte could all be in the starting line-up.

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