Captain José Fonte is relishing the challenge of taking on reigning champions Manchester City tomorrow – but plays down the suggestion that it is the first real test of this side’s abilities.
So far, Southampton have faced only two of the seven sides that finished above them last season in Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, and have lost to both.
Those are Saints’ only defeats of the campaign to date, ahead of Sunday’s second-versus-third clash with City at St Mary’s, which will be closely followed by a trip to Arsenal next week before a home game against Manchester United.
But, while admitting the next three matches will be tough ones, Fonte was quick to play down any notion that he and his teammates have anything to prove when they take on last season’s high-flyers.
“I don’t really understand why people say this is our first test,” the defender told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.
“You have to play everyone, and it’s happened to go this way in that we haven’t played many big teams yet. You still have to go and beat the other teams.
“For example, if Man City, Liverpool or Tottenham don’t beat mid-table teams or bottom-of-the-table teams, they can’t win the title or fight for things. You still have to beat them and to show up and win because every game in the Premier League is hard.
“We’ve played Liverpool and Tottenham, and showed that we were unlucky not to win those games so we’re going to go into this games full of confidence because we believe in ourselves.
“We know we’re playing a very tough opponent,” continued Fonte.
“They’re the champions of England, and we know that they have great players. That makes it even more exciting to play these games.
“We’re looking at it as a very big challenge for us, and hopefully we can demonstrate why we’re in the position we are.
“Even if we don’t win, it’s nothing that should concern us a lot – because we know we can win the next one.”
Saints go into tomorrow’s game on the back of a hard-fought draw at Villa Park on Monday, which extended the side’s unbeaten run to six games.
And, while he was disappointed not to win that game, Fonte says it was important to salvage something from the match ahead of the upcoming run of fixtures.
“We were disappointed and frustrated, but we know that not every game is going to go our way,” said the Portuguese. “At least we managed to get a point and keep the unbeaten run going.
“You have to understand that we’re not a mid-table club any more. We’re fighting to be better and better, and fighting to be at the top of the table, so we have to be disappointed. Once you accept defeat or accept a draw, it’s not very good.
“Next time we need to try to be more ruthless, but we are all aware of the hard games that we have, so it’s always important to keep the unbeaten run going.
“We’re going into these games with another point in the bag, which is good, so we now look forward to the next game.”