Southampton will have to match Sunderland’s fighting spirit to get back to winning ways, according to Ronald Koeman.
The Saints chief guided his side to five wins and a draw with six successive clean sheets to haul them into contention for at least a fifth-placed finish this season, which would be enough for Europa League qualification.
However, a 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea and Tuesday’s 2-0 reverse at Bournemouth has now left the side down in ninth spot going into Saturday’s visit of Sam Allardyce’s struggling Black Cats at St Mary’s.
Midweek results have brought more teams into the battle for European places, while the fourth Champions League spot is arguably up for grabs as Manchester City now sit level on points with fifth-placed United – seven ahead of the Saints – following three successive defeats.
Koeman is calling on his players to get back to winning ways to avoid slipping further behind and ensure they stay in contention.
But he is wary of complacency against a Sunderland side battling for survival points at the wrong end of the Premier League.
“Teams are fighting relegation. They need to win. If they don’t win, they go back [to the Championship] and that’s the last part of the season,” said Koeman. “You have to prepare yourself for that.”
He added: “We’ve lost two in a row and we have to go back and get the confidence to win games because we like to fight for Europe and that’s always about winning.”
The Saints thrashed Sunderland 8-0 in the same fixture last season, but Koeman does not expect a repeat of that result.
He said: “It’s not important now because that happened once. It is a great memory, but I don’t think too much about last season because then you will be surprised this Saturday.”