West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has labelled this weekend’s clash with Saints as being a “six-pointer”.
The two clubs were both promoted from the Championship last season and are bidding to avoid an immediate relegation from the Premier League.
West Ham have enjoyed by far the better start, currently lying eighth in the table, compared to Saints’ position of 17th.
A win for the Irons at Upton Park on Saturday would move them ten points clear of Nigel Adkins’ men.
Conversely, a defeat would pull Saints to within four of the east London side.
“From our point of view we’d like to beat them on the basis that we have both been promoted and we both know how much of a struggle it is in year one,” Allardyce said.
“If you can pick up points from teams of similar standing to you then you take three points and they don’t get any points.
“It’s almost a six-pointer this early in the season. If we win, they’d only have four points and we’d have 14 and that’s a massive gap that they’d have to try and close over the coming games.”
Saints will take heart from their success against West Ham last season, though.
A Jos Hooiveld goal separated the teams at St Mary’s, before the defender’s late strike at Upton Park earned Saints a point in a 1-1 draw.
They were two important results, as Adkins’ men held onto second place and automatic promotion, while West Ham finished third and had to negotiate the play-offs.
“They’ve had some hard fixtures and they beat us away and then drew with us at Upton Park, so they will be thinking that it is a good chance for them to come and get some points, so we’ve got to try to stop that,” said Allardyce, who believes his side can take advantage of a leaky Saints defence that has conceded a league-worst 20 goals already.
“Southampton have not had the best of starts and have had some difficult games and have been conceding a number of goals and we’ve got to try and take advantage of that.”