Ronald Koeman believes that today’s opponents, Stoke City, possess a greater level of technical ability in their team this season.
The Saints manager has praised the job that his opposite number, Mark Hughes, has done at Britannia Stadium, with the club also pushing for a Europa League spot.
"I think Mark Hughes is doing a great job,” Koeman told Southampton’s official YouTube channel. “They have a good team, a strong team. I think maybe the difference with Stoke now compared to the last two seasons is maybe they have a little bit more individual qualities.
“Maybe physically-wise they lost a little bit, but with [Xherdan] Shaqiri, with [Marko] Arnautović, with [Ibrahim] Afellay in the midfield – they signed [Giannelli] Imbula in the January window – and they are really fighting for a good position in the table, like Southampton.”
Stoke triumphed 1-0 at St Mary’s when the sides met earlier this season, and Koeman explained that his side need to heed the lessons from that day.
"They punished us by very good and fast counter football, and that means by attacking you need to have a good defensive organisation and we have to learn from that and we have to improve on that and of course we need really good football to beat them,” he said.