Ryan Bertrand is relishing Sunday’s afternoon showdown with Manchester City, but has warned his teammates not to let the occasion get the better of them.
The live television cameras are at St Mary’s for the first time this season to screen the contest between second and third in the Barclays Premier League, and Bertrand says Saints have plenty of expertise in their ranks of playing on the big stage to help them through it.
Sunday’s hosting of Manchester City begins a run of three matches against teams that usually occupy the top positions in the league table, though Bertrand says there’s no sense of trepidation within the squad.
“It’s a game that we’re looking forward to,” he told reporters on Friday. “We’re very looking forward to imposing ourselves against a team that’s very close to us in the table.
“There’s a lot riding on this game but, at the same time, it is another game. You just have to play the game and not the occasion, really, and go out there and do the same job.
“There’s only three points at stake – there’s not six for this one – but we’ll be right up for it and hopefully we can get them.”
Many outsiders predict that Saints will find it tough over the next eight days or so, but Bertrand only sees opportunity from the run of games that await the team.
“Definitely,” he affirmed. “I think it’s a compliment to the boys and everyone attached to Southampton when people say "but they ain’t played the big teams yet" and stuff, because technically they’re classing us as one of the big teams now, so it’s a massive compliment in a way.
“I think people will be looking for it, but our season won’t be determined over the next three games. There’s so many games to play.
“But it’s important at the same time that we want to keep that good vibe going and try to get as many wins as we can.
“In terms of our approach to this game, it’s two big teams. We’re second, they’re third. It’s not the traditional Manchester United second and them third, or where they both go in quite tense. We’re fully enjoying it up the top and long may that continue, so we will go into this game relishing the opportunity.”
Bertrand’s knowledge of playing in a Champions League final is something mirrored by his Saints teammate Toby Alderweireld, while the rest of the team that started in Monday’s draw at Aston Villa have also all played international football, which the full-back thinks will serve the team well.
He said: “We’ve got a good pedigree throughout the team and good experience in European games and we’ve got seasons under our belt in the Premier League as well. That speaks volumes of the side that we’ve got and hopefully that can transfer to this weekend.
“I think from the outside world they’re continuously waiting for us to blow up, but if you’re on the inside, the players have a lot of knowledge, they’ve been around to a lot of clubs, played with a lot of big players and seen people, and it’s not unless you’re on the inside that you can really see the quality day-in and day-out of the players, and you think this is a really, really high level.
“We fully feel at home where we are (in the table). We don’t come in every day pinching ourselves and being like ‘Ooh, we’re up there still,’ and all of this. We’re aware we fully deserve to be where we are and we also know what it’s took to get us there and that’s the work-rate that we’ve done, the individual quality that we produce, collectively as well, and most of all our team spirit, and there won’t be many teams that will be willing to work for one another more than us.”