Claude Puel says Middlesbrough’s relegation could make them an unpredictable opponent this weekend.
Saints travel to the Riverside Stadium tomorrow to take on Steve Agnew’s side, who had their demotion to the Championship confirmed last Monday, with defeat at Chelsea.
Boro have won just one of their past 11 Premier League matches, but Puel believes they could play with a new-found freedom.
"We know when a team, like for example Sunderland, knows they are relegated they can play with freshness, a good mentality and a good attitude without pressure,” he said.
"The last result of Sunderland shows we must be careful also against Middlesbrough. We're playing a good team who are without pressure, who are fresh, and it will be important to be ready about this."
a good result puts us in a good position for the last two home games.claude puel
A win for Saints could push them as high as eighth in the table, ahead of their final two games of the season next week, against Manchester United and Stoke.
"A good result against Middlesbrough puts us in a good position for the two last games at home,” said Puel. "It’s a very important game for us.
"We know it's difficult to prepare with the tiredness for some players, and with all these games in a short time, but it's an important game and we have to produce good work and a good result and then after think about the last two games and the possibility to finish very well."