Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl believes the next run of games will make or break their Premier League season.
The Saints crashed out of the FA Cup at home against Sky Bet Championship side Derby on Wednesday night, eventually losing the third-round replay on a penalty shoot-out having been 2-0 up with 20 minutes left.
Hasenhuttl’s squad must regroup quickly as attention turns back to top-flight survival with the visit of Everton.
Southampton are currently 16th, but only a point above the relegation zone as they prepare for a set of fixtures against teams around them after the FA Cup fourth-round break, tackling Crystal Palace, Burnley and then Cardiff.
“Every win is very important at the moment. We showed against Leicester how much we wanted to fight for the three points, because we knew exactly that it could help us to leave the relegation zone,” the Southampton manager said.
“The next weeks are very important and the good thing is, after this Everton game, we have more time to prepare for Crystal Palace and the other games, so that’s important for us.
“The next opponents after Saturday – Crystal Palace, Burnley and Cardiff – are teams that are in our zone.
“This game on Saturday and then the next ones maybe show us in what direction our development is going – is it going in the upper regions or do we stay there where we are?”
Southampton could have top-scorer Danny Ings back from a hamstring problem to boost their attacking options against Everton.
Forward Charlie Austin will also be available following suspension, as will captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and defender Yan Valery.
Hasenhuttl knows it will take another big effort to lift the group which were forced to go the distance against Derby.
“I think we really need fresh players on Saturday because we played 120 minutes, which is tough to go for a lot of them,” Hasenhuttl said at a press conference reported by the club.
“I can’t make a change or rotate in every position because it is not possible due to the injuries we have, but we will have a look.
“It depends how physically strong every player is and I have a few very strong players and a few who are not so far in their development.
“That is why I have to have a good eye on the guys, to see how they feel and how fresh they are.”