Belfast Telegraph

Pellegrino confident improving Saints squad can cope with festive fixtures

Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino believes his squad is strong enough to cope with a hectic week of Premier League football.

Arsenal visit St Mary's on Sunday before Saints face Leicester and Chelsea as the festive fixtures begin.

Pellegrino has seen his side improve in recent weeks, hammering Everton 4-1, coming from behind to draw at Bournemouth and pushing leaders Manchester City all the way only to concede an injury-time decider.

They now face another side with lofty ambitions as Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel south on Sunday for a noon kick-off with Pellegrino insisting his players can deal with the run of fixtures.

"This week with Arsenal, and games against Leicester and Chelsea as well," he told Southampton's official website.

"It's another difficult week but I feel we have enough of a squad to compete well. We know that Arsenal is a top team, but I feel that it will be a difficult game for them too.

"Our preparations have been good, it has been a good week because we felt last week we changed five or six players and most of them have had opportunities."

Pellegrino made several changes for the trip to south-coast rivals Bournemouth last weekend and it remains to be seen who the Argentinian will opt to deploy in attack against the Gunners.

But the former Liverpool defender reckons he has a group of players all deserving of a place in his side.

"Every single game is an opportunity to try and learn from the past," he added.

"I think the last week was positive in two ways, first of all most of the team showed they can be part of the team.

"In different games we have played well and reacted to different situations. We reacted against Bournemouth, we played a difficult game against City but we were there until the end and we played really well against Everton."

Saints will be without Cedric Soares as the Portugal full-back has not recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in the defeat to Manchester City.

Pellegrino's main decision is who will lead the line as Charlie Austin has scored three in two starts since returning to the team while Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini are also in contention.

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