Mark Hughes sees Stoke City and Southampton as “two evenly matched sides” as his men prepare to host Saints at the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have endured a tricky start to the season, facing Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in their three previous Premier League home games.
Saints are three points better off in the league table, but recent history would back up Hughes’ opinion – all of the last 16 meetings between the sides have been won by the odd goal or drawn.
“I would suggest we’re two evenly matched sides and they’re a good side who, on their day, can play exceptionally well and cause you problems, like we can,” he said.
“We need to make sure that we dictate to them, make sure they don’t get any momentum to their play and take the game from them.
“They’re good collectively and good individually, so we will need to make sure that we are ready.”
Stoke have been suffering with a defensive crisis. Hughes was without injured trio Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Kevin Wimmer against Chelsea last week, while Bruno Martins Indi hobbled off late in the game with a groin problem.
Kurt Zouma was also absent, ineligible against his parent club, but returns to the squad to face Saints.
“Kurt is a top-level defender and one who has a great future ahead of him, so we are looking forward to having him back on Saturday,” Hughes added.
“We are hopeful on Geoff Cameron, which would be a big positive for us.
“In terms of the defensive injuries we have, he is realistically the only one who has a genuine chance of taking part.”