Saints’ players tonight have the chance to prove to themselves just how far they have come this season as they host title chasing Liverpool in a mouth-watering clash at St Mary’s.

Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League hopefuls arrive on the south coast knowing they have no margin for error in their bid to overhaul Manchester City.

But they are going to meet a Saints team in fine form, having won three of their last four and in the top five of the 2019 form table.

With the eyes of the footballing world upon them, you could be forgiven for thinking this would be seen as an opportunity for Saints to prove to anybody watching just how far they have come, and to lay down a marker for the future.

However, Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl says a positive performance and result would prove to the players themselves just what they are capable of.

He said: “I think it’s more a statement for themselves and not to show outside we are able to beat big teams because we showed that in the last games at home against a big opponent. Only against Man City we had no chance.

“It is to show themselves they are one step further in their development and that is the most important thing.

“We are always talking about that we want to show ourselves we are one step further now in our development - flexibility, mentality but also to find the right balance against such a team is the most crucial thing.

“In some areas against this team to take risks is horrible because they immediately win the ball and then it goes very quick with a lot of speed on the pitch.

“I think we must be brave in the right areas and play football in the right areas and then we showed we can score against these big teams and get results against these big teams but it is a very tough challenge.”

Liverpool have looked a little jittery in recent matches but have delivered wins under pressure.

Saints have had to do similar but for very different reasons as they look to avoid relegation.

Having put together a fine run to secure nine points from the last 12 and boosted by a midweek set of results that saw the teams around them all lose, Saints finally have a game where they are under much less pressure, which could work to their advantage.

“It’s always like this if you play against one of the top six in England that nobody expects something from you and you have a little bit less pressure,” reckoned Hasenhuttl.

“If you know us as sportsmen or me as a manager you know we want to win every game and we hate to lose so the challenge is something we like to have.

“You can feel it when I stand here in the morning for the opposition meeting and talk to my players that they are very concentrated and they want to hear how we want to play and have the right details for them to be perfectly prepared for such an opponent.

“They know you need a nearly perfect game against such an opponent and this makes it so interesting for the team and also for us as the manager.

“We are studying the opponent all the time and it is maybe about chess and finding the right move at the right moment and that makes this so interesting.”