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Hasenhuttl urges Southampton players not to fall back into bad habits

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has urged his players to avoid complacently falling back into bad habits and being sucked into Premier League relegation danger.

In-form Saints have propelled themselves away from the bottom three and into contention for a top-10 finish on the back of five wins from eight top-flight games.

The south coast club, in 13th position, are currently level on 31 points with the three teams immediately above them, including weekend opponents Burnley.

Hasenhuttl believes his side are capable of a strong end to the campaign but is eager to keep them focused on short-term targets to prevent an untimely slide down the table.

“Every club wants to be a top-10 team and it’s not that far away from us at the moment,” said the Austrian.

“But (there is) still hard work to do, especially against opponents like Burnley, they are around us (in the table), we have to take three points at home.

“Better not to concentrate too much on the end result of the season.

“It will be a good one if we play well, take lots of wins. It will be not so good if we stop winning now and fall back in a behaviour we don’t want to see.

“Stay on playing aggressive, stay on playing good in possession, and in the end I hope we are not any more in the relegation battle and any position you make better is fantastic.”

Southampton began a tumultuous season with a chastening 3-0 loss away to Burnley.

The second-half collapse at Turf Moor paved the way for just two victories from the opening 13 league matches – which included a 9-0 thrashing by Leicester – to leave Saints languishing near the foot of the table.

Former RB Leipzig coach Hasenhuttl, who came under serious pressure earlier this term, admits the emphatic defeat to Sean Dyche’s Clarets left him questioning his side’s pre-season preparations.

“The second half I can remember, it was not the best one from our side,” Hasenhuttl said of the loss in Lancashire.

“It was a tough start in a tough season and maybe a signal that at some moments we haven’t been playing what we really like to play.

“It was not really helpful for the whole development.

“You have six, seven weeks to prepare for the first game and then you lose the first game and that means the seven weeks were s**t.

“This is a clear message, especially when you have the next game at home against Liverpool, you know it ill be a difficult start. It was not nice.”

After a nine-day break following the FA Cup fourth-round replay loss at Tottenham, Southampton should have a fully-fit squad for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at St Mary’s.

Midfielder James Ward-Prowse, who suffered a nasty leg gash at Spurs, is expected to be available, while full-back Kyle Walker-Peters could make his debut having recently joined on loan from Jose Mourinho’s side.

Visitors Burnley are often derided for their direct style of play but Hasenhuttl feels that assessment does Dyche’s men a disservice.

“To reduce them only on the long balls, it’s not fair for this team,” he said.

“They are not easy to play against, good reverse gear, absolutely passionate way of defending around the box, to create chances against this team is not easy.

“We will try to find a different way to play them because the whole game (in August) was not like we want to play and the development since then is a massive one and we want to show that we are better.”