Saints put their league schedule on hold for another shot at FA Cup glory this weekend in the last 16 of the competition. Kick-off 12.45pm.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men face a familiar foe to contest for a place in the quarter-finals of the tournament as they take on fellow Premier League side Sunderland for the fourth time in the current campaign.
This will be the third trip of the season to the Stadium of Light for Southampton, who will be hoping that number will be a charm as they go in search of their first win over the Black Cats this term.
During November, Sunderland advanced in the Capital One Cup at Saints’ expense with a 2-1 win in one of Gus Poyet’s first matches in charge of the Black Cats. The Uruguayan boss has since taken his team all the way to the Final in that competition, with the game to be played next month.
Coupled with last month’s 2-2 draw in the Premier League, you therefore have to go back to January 2003 for the last time Saints were successful on Wearside.
The last FA Cup tie between the two teams was in January 1985, a third round clash at the Dell which Saints won 4-0. The goals arrived from Steve Moran (two), Alan Curtis and Joe Jordan. The latter of that trio scored again in round five but it wasn’t enough to prevent an exit to Barnsley in the Last 16.
Saints have an opportunity to match their best run in nine years with the quarter-final place achieved in 2005 the furthest the club has gone in the past decade.
Tuesday evening’s 1-0 win at Hull City means Saints are now on their joint best unbeaten run of the season, with the slender victory at the KC Stadium the eighth consecutive match without defeat in all competitions. Stretching that to a ninth game could put Pochettino’s side in the hat for the quarter-final draw which takes place on Sunday at around 3pm.
On the connections side of current players in the Saints and Sunderland sides, only Kelvin Davis has featured for both teams during his career. Davis was part of a Black Cats team that endured a difficult Premier League season in 2005/06.
There are no fresh concerns from Tuesday evening’s game at Hull City. Rickie Lambert was amongst those not to play the full 90 minutes though, and may well lead the line again this weekend.
Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez suffered their long-term injuries in the league meeting between these two teams a month ago, and this cup game is likely to come too soon for both men as they seek quicker than expected returns to fitness.
Gus Poyet says he plans to shuffle his Sunderland side as he will already be without defender Wes Brown, who is suspended after being sent off in last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Hull.
Striker Connor Wickham is available for the Black Cats after returning to the club from his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday. January signing Liam Bridcutt could also be involved having not played for former club Brighton in the previous rounds of the competition.
“We know Sunderland very well.
“This will be the fourth time we’ve met them [this season] but, when you are playing a lot of competitions, that’s always a possibility. We are ready to face them.
“We’ve played against them three times, and each single game has been different.
“We have learned from every game against them. We review and analyse every game to determine how we have to improve in case we have to repeat situations.
“For example, we analysed our game against Stoke to prepare better for the game against Hull because sometimes teams defend in the same way.
“We always learn from our games, and hopefully we can play better and more clinically to win against Sunderland.”
“I was looking forward to giving a few players opportunities and that will not change.
“We have a few players who need to play and deserve to play but, for different reasons, they haven't been able to.
“I'm talking about players like (Emmanuele) Giaccherini and (Ignacio) Scocco. They both need minutes, so we're going to use that game for this.
“But it will all be first team players, we will not be taking the game lightly. I hope that we win it so we don't have to play a replay.”
Saints and Sunderland have already met in both the Premier League and Capital One Cup competitions this season, with the most recent meeting taking place just a month ago at the Stadium of Light.
That game finished 2-2 as the hosts hit back from going 2-0 down to goals from Jay Rodriguez and Dejan Lovren, which meant that both league meetings between the two teams this season ended in draws.
The Black Cats earned a 2-1 win during November’s fourth round league cup tie in the north east, a result which set them on their way to a place in the Final against Manchester City next month. Maya Yoshida scored his first competitive goal for the Southampton in that cup game, but it turned out to be only a consolation.
It was a 1-1 draw in the first league game at St Mary’s of the campaign. Jose Fonte’s 88th minute header earned the home side a point after falling behind to Emanuele Giaccherini’s first half opener.
Back at the Stadium of Light in the closing stages of last season, the two sides also shared the spoils thanks to Jason Puncheon’s 76th minute leveller which cancelled out Phil Bardsley’s strike.
It is therefore more than a decade since Southampton last beat Sunderland, something they last achieved with a double of victories over the Black Cats in the 2002/03 season.
Overall, the two sides have met 60 times in competitive matches. 23 of those have gone Saints' way, 22 have ended in Sunderland wins and 15 have ended up with honours even.
Mike Dean will referee Saturday’s game, and he will be assisted by Mr D Cann and Mr J Collin. Mr P Tierney is the fourth official.
You can listen to live commentary courtesy of BBC Solent on Saints Player, where you can keep up to date with all the stats and scores from around the country.
Jesús Pérez and Steven Davis spoke to Saints Player ahead of the game, and you can watch their interviews, as well as the press conferences in full on our video channel.
And if you’re coming to the game, don’t forget to take your smartphones and join in with #MarchingIn on our social media channels. Tweet us @SouthamptonFC or comment on our official Facebook page and upload images onto Instagram with the #MarchingIn for a chance to appear in a future edition of our Matchday Magazine.