Mark Hughes believes Saints can still compete with the Premier League’s big six.

A 3-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield made it 25 league games without a victory over the top flight’s giants for Saints.

There was little on offer to suggest they are closing the gap on a Liverpool side who look in great form and on for a genuine tilt at the title.

Saints are far from the only team outside of the top six that struggle against sides who have vast resources and can shop from the very top shelf of world footballing talent.

But the gap between Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and the rest does seem to be wider than ever.

However, Hughes thinks Saints can give those sides a game, and is hoping his team will show that during this season.

When asked if the gap is getting wider he replied: “It would seem so but I would like to think on our day when we are playing at the best of our ability we can go up against the top teams and still give them maybe a better go than we did today. Hopefully as the season progresses we will prove that along the way.

“You have to acknowledge that Liverpool have got a settled way of playing, they have got personnel who have been here a long time, they have got a manager who has given them continuity as well.

“They are building something, clearly, and they are one of a number of teams who have the resources to go into the market and improve when they are at the top end of the table.

“That will always just keep you ahead of the rest in my view.

“It’s difficult but that’s the challenge teams such as Southampton have and it’s the one we have to make sure we are good at doing.”

Despite the heavy defeat, there were a few positives to take from the loss at Anfield, especially in the wide areas where Saints did look more potent.

“I was quite pleased,” admitted Hughes.

“In terms of the general play in the first half there was not that much difference between the teams but clearly we didn’t defend correctly.

“It seemed like any good moments that they had we ended up conceding easy goals and that’s been a problem not just here but in previous games as well.

“We have got to tighten up and make sure we give ourselves a chance to remain in games.

“It’s hard enough to come to places like this and you can’t concede too readily as it’s too much to overcome.”