Guus Hiddink says Saints will provide a major test of how much Chelsea have improved, adding that he wants his side to “annoy” their opponents tomorrow.
The teams will meet at St Mary’s in a Barclays Premier League clash that could have big implications in the chase for Europe, with the Blues now under the guidance of Dutchman Hiddink.
When the sides faced off earlier in the season, it was José Mourinho who was in charge of Chelsea, with Saints winning 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Since Hiddink has replaced Mourinho, Chelsea have gone on a nine-match unbeaten run in the top flight, while they have lost just once in 13 games across all competitions.
But with Saints on a six-match streak in which they have neither lost nor conceded a goal, Hiddink believes this will be one of his side’s biggest tests of the year.
"I think so,” he said. “The way they can maintain their clean sheet, but also the way they can play and surprise an opponent, they have a mix of young players, but also some players who know the game and that makes them very dangerous.
“It will be for Chelsea I think now a big test to where they are in the Premier League.”
Hiddink added: "This year they started well, then they had a little bit of a setback. The club was very, very stable when they had a difficult period and they regained their confidence in the recent games.
“You have seen, I don't know exactly the statistics, but they have a clean sheet already in six or eight games, so it's up to us to try to annoy them.”
Hiddink is also looking forward to a reunion with Ronald Koeman, who he coached at PSV Eindhoven, with the pair winning the European Cup together in 1988, and it is no surprise to the Chelsea boss that Koeman has gone on to be a success as a manager in his own right.
“It's easy to say now, but I didn't have any doubt,” he said. “At that time, we tried to establish a team of good players of course, but also players' personalities, because I'm always of the opinion that a manager once the game is going on has limited power.
“I was looking always to a spine in the team which can control the execution of your plan, and he was one of those guys in the spine who was one of the leaders. You could talk with him about what needed to be executed on the pitch, so you could notice even at that young age that he would have the possibility to go into the managers’ business.”