Southampton manager Ruben Selles admits it will be a pleasure to go up against Tottenham boss Antonio Conte this weekend but remains confident they can boost their survival hopes going into the international break.
Premier League basement club Saints welcome fourth-placed Spurs in need of points after a disappointing 2-0 home defeat by Brentford on Wednesday.
Selles was made permanent manager last month and faces another difficult task on Saturday against a side chasing Champions League qualification, but the Spaniard will not be fazed going toe-to-toe with Conte after sharing the touchline with him during his time as an assistant at Qarabag.
“I have big respect for Antonio,” the rookie Saints boss insisted.
“He fought his way to the top and had time in the Italian national team. I met him a couple of times when they played in Baku.
“Juventus, Inter Milan, Chelsea and now Tottenham, it is always an identity, always solid and always difficult to beat.
“He has been one of the top coaches in the last 10 years and it will be my pleasure to play against him and try to beat him, but with the biggest respect always.
“We met when we played (against Chelsea) with Qarabag when we played them in the Champions League. We met after the game and had a good chat so we met a couple of times.
“For me it was a pleasure in that moment and it is a pleasure now to stand in front of them and do my very best to beat them.”
Southampton start the weekend bottom of the table but could move out of the relegation zone with victory over Tottenham.
It was a similar scenario ahead of the midweek clash with Brentford at St Mary’s, where they lost for a 10th time in front of their own supporters.
But Selles insisted: “I know the results at home have not been the ones we wanted but we don’t feel any pressure to play in front of our fans.
“We have confidence in what we do. Sometimes we can lose football matches but we need to perform. I think Wednesday was about key moments of the game that we were not there.
“We are fully ready for tomorrow. It is not extra pressure to play at home. It is the opposite. It should be a boost for us to go out there and compete at home.”
Tension is growing for clubs in the bottom half and Crystal Palace sacked Patrick Vieira on Friday morning.
Twelfth-placed Palace are only five points above Southampton and Selles believes the difference between safety and relegation will be marginal.
“The margin will be one point until the very end,” the 39-year-old stated.
“We are confident that we can do it.”
Published: 17/03/2023 by Radio NewsHub