MARK HUGHES will hope Southampton’s draw with Manchester United gives a big confidence boost to his team.
But the Saints face an instant reality check because their fixture list over the next month does not make pretty reading.
Getty Images – Getty5 Mark Hughes watched his side earn a point against Manchester United
A trip to Wembley to face Tottenham is next up on Wednesday night but big guns Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all lie in wait over the following six games.
Those fixtures do go against them as they aim to build momentum in their relegation battle.
That run of games will take them up to January 2 and then Southampton can take stock and see where they are.
Boss Hughes has been getting a lot of stick for results this season but, apart from the 6-1 drubbing at City, they have competed from the first to the last whistle in recent weeks.
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Getty – Contributor5 Cardiff got to grips with Ruben Neves as the beat Wolves last Friday
Reuters5 Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has to find another way if Neves and Moutinho are shut down
The Saints drew with Bournemouth and Newcastle back-to-back in October and got a point at Watford before losing to Fulham by one goal.
These are the fine margins in the Premier League.
Elsewhere, if you stop Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, you stop the main supply line for WOLVES.
Cardiff were the latest team to get to grips with the men from Molineux by stifling their midfield duo on Friday night.
Watford and Huddersfield also did their homework with a third player in midfield and all three came out victorious.
Wolves play 3-4-3, a formation that served them so well in the Championship last season and in the early weeks of this campaign.
But boss Nuno Espirito Santo will have to change his tactics and get an extra man in midfield to help out and combat the growing problem.
Neves and Moutinho start the attacks for Wolves but they are too often being dominated, in and out of possession.
Reuters5 January transfer window could be key for Neil Warnock and Cardiff after winning three of last four games
On the subject of CARDIFF, January will be key for their chances of survival.
Neil Warnock’s men have won three of their last four games against Fulham, Brighton and Wolves.
Home form is key for any newly promoted team and they have also shown great togetherness because they have been behind in each victory.
That spirit will be important but the transfer window is equally vital.
It’s the same for all the teams at the bottom.
Yes, the big clubs might do some serious business but what the sides do at the other end of the table will define their finishing position.
We will get a better view of the relegation battle after January.