Southampton manager Ronald Koeman retains top-four hope

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman

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Southampton manager Ronald Koeman remains confident his side can secure a top-four finish following Monday’s 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.

Saints went behind to a Gabby Agbonlahor goal before defender Nathaniel Clyne ensured the points were shared with a second-half equaliser at Villa Park.

Southampton remain second in the Premier League table, seven points clear of fifth-placed Newcastle, and Koeman feels if his side can maintain their form qualification for next season’s Champions League is a realistic objective.

When asked if he was confident of a top-four finish, Koeman told Sky Sports: “Yes of course, but first we have to play better than we did. Everybody knows that the Premier League is a battle every game and there are big teams but they are struggling as well.

“If we keep going and keep our spirit like we showed – we had great character and we showed great patience in the second half – then it’s possible because I don’t see many teams better than Southampton.”

Southampton’s credentials as serious top-four contenders will be severely tested over the course of their next three fixtures as they face title challengers Manchester City at St Mary’s on Sunday, before games against fellow top-four hopefuls Arsenal (a) and Manchester United (h).

Koeman believes his side were not at their best at Villa Park and warned they will have to improve when they face the defending champions this weekend, with Southampton 3.40 to secure all three points.

He added: “We didn’t reach the level we can reach and we must reach that to be competitive against City on Sunday.”

City are 2.16 to win Sunday’s match and a draw is available at 3.20.

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