Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is expecting to face a Southampton team riding the crest of a wave in the Emirates FA Cup this evening.
Saints host the Gunners in a fourth-round tie, just a few days after booking a place in the EFL Cup final, following their midweek triumph over Liverpool.
Wenger says he is expecting an even tougher challenge as a result of that success for Claude Puel, who he used to coach at Monaco, and his team.
“Southampton are on a high,” said Wenger, who starts a four-match touchline ban this afternoon. “They produced a fantastic performance against Liverpool, so overall that makes the game even more interesting and more difficult as well.
“They are not short of confidence at the moment and will certainly have a big support, but it’s an FA Cup game and we want to qualify.”
Today’s meeting will be the first time the sides have faced each other in the FA Cup since they met in the 2003 final, at Cardiff.
“I remember 2003,” said Wenger. “It was 1-0 with a Pires goal and a great save from David Seaman [from Brett Ormerod]. It was a tough game.
“I think two weeks before the final, we played them in the Premier League and won 6-1. Pennant scored three goals, so everybody expected us to have an easy final, but a final is never easy.
"On the day we just did what was necessary, but it was still a great win."