SAINTS’ form since the international break has been good enough for a place in the Premier League’s top four.

Only two months ago, Saints’ 2-1 defeat at home to Everton left them languishing in the relegation zone.

Now Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side is in its best shape of the season as it prepares to take on Leicester City for the first time since the 0-9 humiliation at St Mary’s on October 25.

Daily Echo:

With five wins, two draws and two defeats from the last seven games, Saints have a superior record to every side bar Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester since returning from their fortnight off with a 2-2 draw at Arsenal.

When you consider they were so close to a win at the Emirates and should have at least drawn with Newcastle United after taking the lead at St James’ Park, Saints could easily be heading to Leicester with a superior record to Brendan Rodgers’ side over the last nine matches.

Liverpool’s inexorable march to their first Premier League title has continued with a maximum points haul.

But for Saints to only be two points off Manchester City and Leicester on post-November 9th form should fill them with confidence as they prepare for the trip to the King Power Stadium.

Hasenhuttl’s decision to ‘reset’ his team on return from the two-week break that followed that defeat has reaped dividends.

The return to a flat back four - with Alex McCarthy, Cedric, Jack Stephens, Jan Bednarek and Ryan Bertrand protected by James Ward-Prowse and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (all of whom have been ever-presents) - has seen Saints concede only nine goals in those nine games.

Hasenhuttl’s preferred 4-2-2-2 formation has also brought the best out of Danny Ings, who has scored eight of Saints’ 14 goals in the last nine, as opposed to five in 12 before the 2-2 draw at Arsenal on November 23.

Nathan Redmond’s return to form as another ever-present has also been significant .

But what has been most impressiveis the way the high-energy counter-pressing approach has been sustained during a hectic Christmas period with several key players not rested until the FA Cup tie against Huddersfield.