Under-23s coach Dave Horseman has hailed his side's work ethic this week, as Saints visit Stoke in the Premier League cup on Monday night (kick-off 7pm GMT).
Saints will be looking to make amends for their last fixture; a 5-0 defeat to an experienced Liverpool side in Premier League 2.
“I think it put our progress into perspective,” said Horseman on the game. “It showed the distance we have to come as a group to come anywhere near what was the best team we’ve played, with some of the best players, by a mile.”
The trip to Stoke is the second time Saints have played the Potters this season, having drawn 1-1 at Staplewood in the home Premier League Cup tie in October.
“They [Stoke] were a good opponent when we played them at home,” recalled Horseman. “We went 1-0 up and they played a 4-3-3 and we played really well at 1-0.
“They changed to a diamond and it caused us a bit of problems. This will be a tough game, they’re physically a decent team. They have a couple of decent midfielders who could pass it, two front men who were a right handful.
“We have players who can definitely win the game, which would put us in a good position to qualify from the group.
Dave HorsemanWe'd like a cup run. We'll try and win the game but it's a real tough challenge for another young group going up there."
Southampton FC Under-23s coach
“If we perform in the way we have prior to Liverpool, we had seven games on the trot where we were absolutely excellent.
“Since Christmas we’ve seen a massive shift, a massive shift. The week before Liverpool we thought was a good week’s development across tactical, technical, physical and psychological.
“They’re starting to look a little bit fitter; it was really competitive out there today. There were a couple of moments where we’ve had to split them up a bit because they care. They genuinely care and are genuinely pushing themselves."