Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side are facing a defining period in their season, with their first run of difficult fixtures coming up.
After matches against Leicester City at home and Aston Villa away which are both winnable on paper, the Saints go on to host Manchester City and Manchester United with an away fixture against Arsenal sandwiched in between.
These matches could propel Southampton on towards a top four finish, or failure to pick up any points could result in a more expected finish somewhere in the top half.
With their midfield as dominant as Southampton’s, they have every chance of surviving the upcoming gauntlet. Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and Jack Cork have all been excellent this season, and are men Koeman can really rely on to tackle the big fixtures.
Manuel Pellegrini’s City have not been at their best in recent weeks. Although they beat neighbours United on Sunday, they are struggling on their travels and Southampton should not be daunted by the challenge, especially at St. Mary's.
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The Dutch manager also has the ability to call on past experience for the trip to the Emirates, having beaten the Gunners there in the Capital One Cup earlier this season.
With United not at the same levels as recent years, they too represent a fixture that Koeman could expect to get something from. He shouldn't be afraid of any the teams set to face his side, particularly with their current run of form.
With the form and confidence the 51-year-old's team are currently displaying, Koeman will have some tough choices when it comes to team selection.
With midfielders of Cork, Wanyama, Davis and Schneiderlin occupying just three starting places, it has been Cork and Wanyama that have rotated, and the ability to keep things fresh in the engine room is a major plus for the former Feyenoord boss.
Defenders Florin Gardos and Matt Targett are waiting in the wings for a starting spot as well after performing well in the Capital One Cup.
With Jay Rodriguez making his way back from injury and Shane Long and Sadio Mane chasing the final spot in attack, Koeman definitely has options to play with depending on the match and opponent he is facing.
Facing the best
The one thing that Koeman will be keen to impress on his squad, will be that if they are to challenge for a top four position this season, they will need to earn it by beating the teams that will be around them.
With three of those contenders coming up in the next six weeks, the Dutchman and his staff will be keen to make as big an impression on their potential rivals in the upcoming fixtures that will let them know his side are where they are on merit and they are there to stay.
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