To the untrained eye, the task ahead of Swansea City at St Mary's may seem easier than securing a draw with the Champions League winners last weekend. The Swans historically find bottom of the league opposition far trickier than a title contender, but Southampton aren't your average lowest placed team, having consistently played well through a difficult start.
Ashley Williams will have to be at his best against former team mate Rickie Lambert to stop a Saints attack who are not short of attempts on goal. Welsh captain Williams rediscovered his form against Chelsea last week and looks, once again, commanding at the back. With Chico Flores looking unlikely to start after an injury picked up at Anfield, manager Michael Laudrup will most likely favour an unchanged team from the weekend: a team that produced a performance that had the reward of 3 points within its grasp, displayed a belief in ability which re-engaged a fluidity and flare that has flickered during games across the course of the season.
Club captain Garry Monk will return to his former club aware that the Swans have not won away since the 5-0 demolition of QPR at the opening fixture of the campaign. Gerhard Tremmel, slotting seamlessly into injured Michel Vorm’s gloves, joins long-term injured Neil Taylor's well documented £400 a week replacement Ben Davies. Davies, who has been impressive and improving weekly, provides Southampton with the tough task of breaking down a side brimming individually in confidence.
Taking a different direction from last season’s obsession with possession, Laudrup's encouragement to push forward into the final third has seen Swansea vulnerable at the back at times. But with the summer additions appearing to have found their feet, the Welsh side are gifting Sky Sports with "shock" results such as the 3-1 victory over the Capital One Cup holders.
In midfield, Ki Sung-Yueng has more than filled departing Joe Allen's boots. The Korean has showed outstanding awareness on the ball, never failing to be unavailable to receive a pass no matter how much pressure he might be under, and boasts a pass completion rate of 90% or over for every game he's featured. Together, Ki and Pablo Hernandez bring the play forward where Swansea are finding themselves in dangerous positions more frequently. Hernandez's adaptation to the physicality of the Premier League has seen him take Nathan Dyer's place on the starting line up. Along with Wayne Routledge on the left, the wingers have taken up a far more daring role than last season, through arguably a lack of fear of losing possession.
Summer signing Jonathan de Guzman has also begun to make his mark on the team. Now playing in a more advanced position than when the season first started, his contribution has noticeably improved the closing down of opposition and has proved particularly productive in the set piece department. While looking strong on the counter attack, the last few fixtures suggest an improvement in the final third can still be made.
With all the pieces seemingly falling into place and Michu finding himself further forward than his debut, all that remains is goals. Laudrup said this week that if he was offered a choice between a win against Chelsea or a win against Southampton, he would choose the latter. Against a side desperate for a result, now is the time for Swansea to show that their potential and impressive performances can produce a win.
As both teams know all too well, good performances don't always result in three points.