Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has challenged his side to take a giant step towards Premier League safety by winning away at Newcastle.
The Saints head to St James’ Park five points clear of Cardiff, who breathed new life into their own survival hopes with a midweek win over Brighton.
Austrian Hasenhuttl has overseen an upward progression since taking over in early December, when the team had managed only one victory from the opening 14 league games under Mark Hughes.
Four wins out of the last six have put Hasenhuttl’s men within touching distance of securing another campaign among the elite.
The Saints boss, though, maintains everyone must stay focused for the long trip to the north east for Saturday’s 5.30pm kick off.
“Newcastle are a very good team in a fantastic stadium with a good football atmosphere. They do it very well at the moment,” Hasenhuttl said.
“They are nearly safe, but they also want to make the last steps to climb to the 40 points.
“For us it is another good challenge to show that we can compete also in away games.
“We took three points at Brighton, which was a massive game for us. Against Newcastle, we try to do it again.
“We will try to be a good balanced opponent which knows exactly what to do against a very organised team with high quality.
“It is never easy to take points there, but in the Premier League it is never easy.”
Southampton’s solid form – they have been beaten only by Manchester United and Liverpool since the end of February – has been built on a settled side.
Hasenhuttl, though, feels credit must go to the whole squad.
“It is very tough for me to find a first XI now, I have a lot of options, a lot guys who are training very well during the week and show up,” Hasenhuttl said at a press conference broadcast by the club.
“It makes it very difficult for me to pick the first XI, but that is exactly how it should be.
“It would be worse if I have players who are happy if they sit on the bench, because that doesn’t mean that we develop our game.
“At the moment is does not mean they are weak because they don’t play, they don’t play because the others are so good at the moment.
“They train so hard to push the others to a top performance at the weekend – that is the atmosphere which creates quality and that is what we do at the moment.”