José Fonte says the opportunity to finish above Newcastle this season will play a part in Saints’ motivation for all three points on Saturday.
The teams in eighth and ninth in the table meet at St Mary’s this weekend with the winner of the contest moving into the higher spot heading into the final six games of the season.
Saints defender Fonte believes that incentive forms part of a wider ambition to finish as high up the league as possible, with the team also closing in on equalling the club’s best ever Premier League finish of 52 points.
“This is a massive game because we know if we win we go above them and it’s going to be a very good game I think,” the Portuguese told Saints Player.
“We’ll give everything to get the three points because coming off the disappointment of last Sunday where we thought we could have easily won the game, we need to bounce back and St Mary’s is the only place to do that.”
Last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at Tottenham made Europa League qualification a tall-order for Saints. It was also a game which Jose made his 175th appearance for the club in some four years on from moving to St Mary’s from Crystal Palace.
Alan Pardew was Saints’ boss at that time, and Fonte is looking forward to another hard-fought contest against his old gaffer, who left Southampton in 2010.
“We’ve moved on and Alan moved on too, he’s doing a good job at Newcastle,” said Fonte. “We look forward to the game on Saturday. It has been interesting each time we’ve played them so it should be a good game.
“You can tell by the looking at the table that we are at the same level, but I would say that we play more attractive football and we are a more stylish team, but they are not too far away from us I think.”
Saints are yet to beat a team at home from the current top half the table this season, whilst their overall record compares favourably against teams in the lower half, but Fonte says the players don’t worry themselves about trivial stats.
“We approach every game as to win and I think everyone knows that,” he said. “It hasn’t happened this season as often as we wanted it to against the top ten. Sometimes we’ve been a little unlucky against the top sides not to win a game, but it doesn’t really affect us, we don’t think about that we just want to win every game of football and that’s how we’ll approach it.
“We’ve worked very hard in order to have a comfortable season,” Jose continued.
“We wanted more than this though we’re not going to lie. As a team, as a group of players and staff we wanted a little bit more, but it’s not finished yet, we still have seven games to achieve what we wanted to achieve.
“I saw an interview from Rickie the other day and I thought that he was exactly to the point by saying you can be as big as you want to be. It’s to do with your mentality and we are a club that wants to be successful, so we need to think big and go for it.”