difficult spell | 

Under-fire Gavin Bazunu backed by club boss as Bristol’s Irish gear up for Man City clash

Bazunu came in for some criticism after the Saints’ 1-0 defeat to Leeds United last weekend.

Under pressure: Southampton's Gavin Bazunu of Southampton. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images© Getty Images

Aidan FitzmauriceIndependent.ie

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has been backed by his club manager who insists that the goalkeeper has the “character” needed to come through a difficult spell.

Bazunu came in for some criticism after the Saints’ 1-0 defeat to Leeds United last weekend, their sixth loss in eight games. He is likely to be rested for the midweek FA Cup tie against Grimsby Town, as veteran Willy Caballero started in the last Cup game, but manager Ruben Selles absolved Bazunu for the goal against Leeds. “When we concede a goal, it’s not a Gavin problem or a centre-back problem, we concede the goal as a team. We should have removed those situations earlier in the game.

“We trust Gavin, but we know we can lose a football match. The disappointing thing is we lost a little bit of our identity,” Selles said.

“If you know Gavin, you know he’s a very strong character and a strong personality. I have no doubt about him and I have no doubt about his personality to get over this.”

Bristol City ’keeper Max O’Leary is targeting international progress with Ireland as, with a new contract at club level tucked away, he steels himself for the challenge of facing up to Manchester City tonight.

O’Leary clocked up his 23rd appearance of the season for the Robins in their 1-0 league win over Hull last weekend and he’s expected to be the last line of defence for the side when they host Pep Guardiola’s outfit.

​The 26-year-old, who is eligible through his Kerry-born grandfather, first linked up with the Irish squad in 2019, when Mick McCarty was manager, but he remains uncapped at senior level, as he was an unused sub on six occasions.

“I want to play at the highest level possible. Hopefully at club level I can do it here but internationally it would be great to be involved in more squads and earn a number of caps,” O’Leary said after the club confirmed that he’d signed a new deal which keeps him at Ashton Gate until 2026.

The Robins, who also have in-form Ireland midfielder Mark Sykes in the first-team, have made an impression on City boss Guardiola. “Last 12 games, no defeats. This means they are there,” Guardiola said.

Shane Duffy is in line for only his third start of the season for Fulham’s Cup test at home to Leeds United. Duffy (31) has played just six times for the London side since his summer move, initially on loan, from Brighton but boss Marco Silva started him in the last round, a 3-2 win over Sunderland, and Duffy expects more game time against Leeds. Also in the Cup tonight, Leicester City host Blackburn Rovers while Brighton travel to play Stoke City.

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