Stoke did not start the season well. They only amassed three points from the opening seven fixtures and people were starting to question whether they were right to stray from the path of the dark side that lead them to relative success in the Pulis-era.
Eight games later and they now have 19 points, sitting only a point and a place behind the saints. The stage is set for a six pointer where the loser remains a safe distance from the relegation fight and the victor can still only squint at the horizon to see the European spaces.
What's changed for the Potters? Not much other than the fixtures getting a bit easier.
In the lead up to tonight's game pundits are talking up Stoke's brilliant home form. Wins over Burnley, Sunderland and Swansea mean they have won three of their last four at the bet365 dot com stadium. Sandwiched in the between these victories was a home loss to Bournemouth. Southampton should give Hughes a tougher game than any of these opponents.
This doesn't mean Puel's boys will conquer tonight. They have only scored 6 in 7 road games. Amassing 5 points. The travelling fans will not take confidence from the previous two away league trips. Losses against Hull and Palace who at the time both held the mantel of "league's worst team"
It is a big blow for Southampton that their top scorer Charlie Austin is out for a few months with a shoulder injury, and I don't see them finding a way past Stoke.
Southampton are solid at the back but lack firepower going forward, especially with Charlie Austin out injured.
The bet365 stadium doesn't have quite the same fear factor as the Britannia, so I fancy us to pick up a point.
Dan V: 0-1
Another 1-0 to us. Nothing will avenge the Europa exit though
Feel nothing good ever happens at Stoke midweek.
Got a feeling a 1-1 might be on the cards. Van Dijk from a corner.