Mauricio Pellegrino: Saints players must defend the shirt right to the end
Mauricio Pellegrino has spoken to his Southampton squad about Cedric Soares' assertion they "gave up" against Liverpool, warning them there can be "no repeat".
Saints on Sunday host struggling Everton hoping to secure the much-needed victory that could lift the pressure building on the manager after only 12 Premier League fixtures.
That Pellegrino has so far overseen a total of three league victories in the months since he replaced Claude Puel, who was sacked having led Southampton to eighth, means Cedric's comments have aggravated their plight.
Discussing last week's 3-0 defeat by Liverpool, the defender said: "We did not start badly, but after the first and second goal we gave up a little bit and our reaction was not the best."
But Pellegrino, 46, remains confident his methods will lead to long-term success and, after confirming he had spoken to his players, said: "It could be possible (we gave up).
"The team felt that maybe the other side were stronger than us and it is something that we can't repeat. You always have to defend your colours until the end, even when you are losing, to try and change the situation.
"Suddenly, you can score one goal and anything can happen. This is something for me that is a part of our character and a part of our learning.
"We have to be optimistic and try to learn from difficult situations."
Before the manager selects his starting XI to face Everton, Mario Lemina faces a late fitness test owing to an ankle injury, and at a time when fellow central midfielder Oriol Romeu is suspended.
If he has not sufficiently recovered, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg represents a potential replacement, and despite so far being consistent in his team selection, Pellegrino revealed he is ready to rotate - a criticism of Puel - and use his squad in the busy coming weeks.
"Oriol is an important player but we've got enough in the squad to try and replace him," he said.
"Obviously they have different qualities because every single payer is unique and we will think about how we will manage this situation.
"Most of my players in our squad are ready to play and that's something that is good because we start now with a period of time with a lot of games and my squad is ready to compete and I've got options in different positions."