Mauricio Pellegrino has called on his team to build on the convincing win over Everton at the weekend and seize the opportunity to surprise leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Sunday’s four-goal show at St Mary’s marked the high point of Southampton’s season so far and the boss hopes that a combination of momentum, composure and big-game anticipation will produce an even better performance in Manchester tonight.
“Difficult games like this are huge opportunities to raise your game and show you can play above your normal levels.
“The main thing for me is to see my team compete against one of the best sides in the world at the moment. It is a good chance to measure our progress.”
Saints’ attacking intent came to the fore against the Toffees in some style and while accepting that there will be periods of the game in which his side will need to defend resolutely, Pellegrino wants to see his charges pose a new challenge for the league leaders.
The two teams occupy two of the top five positions for passes completed in the Premier League this season and the Argentine is keen to see the visitors stick to their possession-based instincts at the Etihad.
“This is a chance for us to put the play on the floor and move them around. City have not had to run behind the ball so far and they are not used to it.
“Of course, there may be moments in the game when we will have to defend more than usual but we have to be ready for that and adapt.
“The margins between winning, drawing and losing are so narrow in the Premier League. What matters is how we are training and the spirit we have to improve.”
This meeting with Pep Guardiola’s side will be the second of three in the space of seven days.
Returning trio Charlie Austin, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and James Ward-Prowse all impressed at the weekend, and with Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina also available for this evening, the boss is confident that the entire Saints squad is ready to contribute both here and to a busy winter schedule.
“We’ve got a big group and most of them are ready to play now. It’s not about numbers, it is about preparations.
“James, Charlie and Pierre haven’t played recently but showed that they are prepared against Everton and credit for that goes to them and our coaching staff. It is good news for the club to be in this position.”