Southampton boss Claude Puel is expecting a difficult game against Sunderland despite their poor league form.
Southampton’s busy fixture list continues with the EFL Cup fourth-round clash at St Mary’s Stadium.
And the Saints boss believes the Black Cats can prepare for the EFL Cup tie “without pressure” despite being bottom of the Premier League.
Southampton also have the demands of the Europa League to deal with but Puel insisted he would not be taking the game lightly.
The Frenchman said: “I will want of course to take this game with serious quality and with all possibilities to win this game and to continue in this competition.
“We play at the moment four competitions and I think it’s important to continue this work.
“Of course it’s important to consider the possibilities of my players. We have many injuries. It’s difficult now to start with a different team. Young players can play also. We will see.
“It’s a difficult game because Sunderland will be freer in their minds to prepare for this game without pressure. It’s important for us to continue this work, to play at home and to have the good result.”
Meanwhile, Puel will resist any temptation to throw record signing Sofiane Boufal into the starting line-up before he is ready.
The 23-year-old midfielder joined the club from Lille in August but has so far made only two substitute appearances as he works his way back from a knee problem.
Boufal made his debut in last week’s Europa League defeat by Inter Milan and then came on for the final 20 minutes of Saints’ 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
But Saints fans hoping the Moroccan might be fit enough for a first start in the EFL Cup fourth-round clash look set to be disappointed.
Puel said: “We will see. Obviously there is recovery with his knee. It was difficult just 20 minutes for him. It’s important to stay patient with him, to see him come back step by step.”