Manager Alan Pardew has warned Newcastle United they will be facing one of the few teams in the Premier League capable of matching their work-rate today.
In a run of fixtures which has seen the Magpies beat Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, a home game against Southampton could be seen as one of their easier matches.
However, sandwiched between the Magpies and the Red Devils in eighth, the Saints have shown themselves to be one of the revelations of the season.
Pardew, who managed them from July 2009 to August 2010, is expecting a more difficult afternoon than the last two teams to visit St James’ Park provided.
He said: “With all due respect to Norwich and West Brom, I put Southampton above them, so it is a tougher game.
“The work-rate of the two teams is right up there in the Premier League so it is going to be one of those games as a neutral which I think you would want to see.” Having already beaten Liverpool and drawn with both Manchester clubs this season, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have been the surprise package of the early months of the Premier League season – even if one win in their last seven has seen them drop behind in-form Newcastle.
Pardew added: “I spoke to Moyesie (David Moyes) at Manchester United and he said they were terrific against them.
I have someone I know who goes to every Chelsea game who I respect greatly and he said Southampton were the best team he had seen there for a while.
“They are not getting the plaudits for nothing, they are playing very well.
“I remember drawing there (Old Trafford) two years ago and it boosted our confidence a little bit, that we put in such a good performance.”
As well as their high pressing football, Southampton have also impressed by giving chances to promising young English players.
Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert (older at 31) have all made their England debuts this season, while James Ward-Prowse, full-backs Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne – who is set to miss out today with an injured hamstring – are expected to follow in due course.
Most have come through an academy which has also produced Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Pardew said: “When I was there, all those players were there and I knew about them.
“I was pretty excited as the manager that you were going to inherit good young kids there and they still have some good young kids.
“I think that’s part of why they have received all the plaudits but they had a great run.
“We have jumped above them in this last period and we have had plenty of plaudits ourselves.
“They have done a great job and they are still right in there.”
With Yohan Cabaye suspended, Pardew has confirmed Vurnon Anita will start in midfield, reward for encouraging performances this season.
He added: “It’s been good for him because he has made himself stronger in the gym and he’s had a little bit more time to reflect on some performances last year, where I think he struggled a little bit.
“This year, you have to pay tribute to him because he has been a lot, lot better and he is pushing hard for a place.
“I would expect him to get 20, 25 appearances this year and for a second year at a big club, that’s a good start.”
Meanwhile, the draw for the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup has handed the winners of Tuesday’s game at Barnsley a home tie against Sunderland.
Southampton’s recent form has not been helped by a lengthy injury list, with midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin facing a fitness test on a pelvic injury today.