Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has talked up Saints, describing them as ‘so hard to beat.’ Saints put up two good showings against City last season but were denied on both occasions by late goals.

Despite Saints’ struggles this season Guardiola is clearly wary of previous form ahead of a meeting of the team’s at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

He said: "I'm impressed with the quality they have up front and especially in the middle.

"They have talented players. They play so deep and so physical.

"It was so hard to beat them and so complicated. We have to be sharp and move well in small spaces and concede few chances in set pieces as they are strong there too.

"They had one week to prepare for this game so it will be tough. We have to be ready to get the three points."

City will be without midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

The Belgium playmaker suffered knee ligament damage in Thursday's Carabao Cup win over Fulham and could be out for up to six weeks.

Defender Nicolas Otamendi is out with a tendon problem but midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is close to returning after a hamstring injury.

De Bruyne will miss next week's derby against Manchester United and at least two Champions League games. He is also likely to be unavailable for his side's trip to former club Chelsea on December 8.

Guardiola added: "It's not about the Manchester derby - the Manchester derby is three points like Southampton is three points. The Manchester derby will not be a final, it will be another game.

"But we are a stronger team with Kevin than without him. We have to live without him and we have to be there when he comes back, that's all we can do."