Can Southampton sustain their Champions League challenge?

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The new year signals that we have passed the half-way stage in the Premier League and as things stand Southampton are sitting in third position.

Winning the league is a near impossibility, remaining in the top four however, thus granting themselves a place amongst Europe's elite is more than possible.

This is a subject that has been greatly discussed over the past three months, what hasn't though, is how they will fair in such a competition.

The Saints have had a quick rise back to the top-flight since 2010 when they were in the third tier of English football, but after finishing an impressive eighth last season, it looked as if their fortunes may have faded with their talented young manager Mauricio Pochettino, alongside Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and Rickie Lambert all leaving the club.

BBC Sport reported that the futures of French midfield maestro Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and Jose Fonte were in doubt. However, the St Mary's outfit managed to keep hold of them.

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Alongside new manager Ronald Koeman and his new signings Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic, Ryan Bertrand and Fraser Foster they are an even more formidable outfit, as is demonstrated in their 8-0 trouncing of Sunderland in October, and their nervy 2-1 victory away at Arsenal in the League Cup third round.

They boast the best defence in the league with only 16 conceded in their 22 matches, three better than their nearest rivals Chelsea. It is the consistency of their back line alongside their discipline that has made this possible, and I feel this stands them in good stead if they were to be in the Champions League next season.

Cold Tuesday nights in Eastern Europe are always difficult as Liverpool felt in Bulgaria this season when they drew 2-2 in a game they lost in the dying minutes and this is a problem we see every week. However, Southampton are well prepared for this having only dropped two points from winning positions this season and having allowed fewer shots on targets against them than any other team.

With all this taken into account, I believe that Southampton could provide a challenge in such a competition and if they keep their squad balanced could even make it out of the group stages.

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Premier League
Ronaldo Koeman

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