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Apr 25, 2014

Southampton need to beat Everton, then emulate them


Southampton might go into this weekend's fixture with Everton with a renewed confidence after technical director Les Reed publicly put to bed the rumours of player departures in the summer. In Everton, Saints face opponents who have had a dramatically improved season under new manager Roberto Martinez and are the best example to remind everyone associated with the club that you can progress and challenge for the Champions League places. The Toffees have been superb this season and have maintained their form throughout, showing what can be done with a few shrewd playing staff additions -- and they've done it by playing football the right way. If Everton can make the leap from also-rans to Champions League challengers, then there is no reason why Saints can't either with the correct level of investment. Let's not forget that Everton's neighbours Liverpool are in pole position to be crowned champions this season after finishing seventh in the last campaign. If you look at Everton's squad, it's fair to say that Martinez himself has had a significant impact, and in my opinion it isn't that much better than the one Saints have. In fact, I think if Saints had Romelu Lukaku in their squad, they might finish a fair bit higher than eighth themselves. If, as Reed alluded to Friday, Saints are both going to keep hold of their key players and make "improvements" to the squad, then they could easily be challengers higher up the table, perhaps overtaking Everton in the process. Saturday's game will no doubt prove a stern test, and Saints will need to perform much better than they did against both Cardiff City and Aston Villa. The club keep referring to the potential record Premier League points haul, which would be a nice achievement, but the last two performances have indicated that they're not so bothered about it on the pitch. While Aston Villa failed to take advantage of Saints' far-from-lethal forward play, Everton and Lukaku will unlikely be so kind. Keep Lukaku quiet, though, and there is no reason why Saints can't put them to the sword. Saints are a match for anyone at home and have fared well against the top sides at St. Mary's. Stifling Lukaku, however, is not Saints' forte, as the Belgian has scored in his last two games against them, once for West Brom and once for Everton.