Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl expects next opponents Brentford to find next season tougher, with the Bees on the verge of confirming their Premier League status.
Brentford have looked comfortable for large parts of their first campaign in the competition and find themselves 14th with three games left to play.
While they are not yet officially assured of another season of top-flight football, their current tally of 40 points will almost certainly be enough to prevent any late-season jitters.
But having seen Sheffield United and Leeds United impress one season before being embroiled in relegation danger the next, Hasenhuttl has a word of warning for the Bees.
“Absolutely. In the first year, when you see since I have been here, from the three promoted teams, there is usually one that has been high-flying,” he said.
“Last year it was Leeds, before that it was Sheffield United. This season it is Brentford. They are absolutely in the position they should be, which is a big success for them.
“We all know that maybe the next season will be a tougher one, like we have seen with Sheffield United and Leeds.”
Southampton are level on points with Brentford heading into Saturday’s contest in west London after losing two and drawing one of their past three matches.
Both sides effectively have little to play for on the face of it, but Brentford boss Thomas Frank has insisted his players will not lose focus.
“I try to be as consistent as possible with my messages. I’m convinced the players want to fight and push for the last three games,” he said.
“Southampton are an experienced Premier League side with top players.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brentford – Ivan Toney
Toney has scored a more-than-respectable 12 Premier League goals for Brentford this season, though he is on a three-game run without finding the back of the net. The last player to score more times for a club in their maiden campaign in the competition was DJ Campbell for Blackpool in 2010-11 with 13 goals.
Southampton – James Ward-Prowse
Southampton midfielder Ward-Prowse has been involved in 14 Premier League goals this season, finding the net nine times himself and setting up five more for his team-mates. The England World Cup hopeful is just one goal involvement shy of matching his tally of 15 from last season, while his 68 chances created is already the most he has managed.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Brentford are winless in their last five home games against Southampton in all competitions (D2 L3), with this the first time they’re hosting Saints since a 3-0 loss in League One in April 2011.
– Southampton are looking to complete their first league double over Brentford since 1954-55, following their 4-1 win at St Mary’s in January.
– The Saints have won their last two Premier League games in London, beating both West Ham and Tottenham by a 3-2 scoreline. They have not won three consecutive top-flight games in the capital since March 1985.
– After winning nine consecutive Premier League games against promoted sides between February 2019 and October 2020, Southampton have won just four of their last 10 such matches (D1 L5).
– Southampton have won just one of their last nine Premier League games (D2 L6), beating Arsenal 1-0 last month. The Saints have dropped 26 points from winning positions in the Premier League this term, which is more than any other side.