Southampton boss Ronald Koeman is targeting a return to European football after seeing his team extend its unbeaten run to eight games at lowly Sunderland.
Dusan Tadic’s second-half penalty was enough to secure a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light to maintain their bid for another lofty finish after an all too brief Europa League adventure earlier this season.
Koeman said: “I think if we reach European football, it would be like we had won the title.”
Asked if that was possible, he replied: “Of course it’s possible. Why not? Why not? Do you think it’s possible? We have the experience from last year.
“We know it’s difficult because it’s not easy to beat big teams, big clubs after 38 games in the Premier League. But we have potential, we have qualities, in my opinion, we have a squad now to fight for that.
“That’s very good, that’s positive and we will see what happens at the end of the season.”
However, Koeman admitted a top-four finish is beyond the Saints.
He said: “No, no, no. Top four? It’s maybe too difficult. Qualifying for Europe means maybe seventh place – like last season – is possible, six, five, four…
“It’s too early in the season to have an opinion on things about that. We like to enjoy football – that’s one of the best qualities, how we like to play, and then you will win a lot of games, we know.”
Southampton had the better of the 90 minutes, but were repeatedly thwarted by keeper Costel Pantilimon until Yann M’Vila’s ill-judged challenge on Ryan Bertrand prompted referee Mike Jones to point to the spot and Tadic obliged to give the visitors a decisive 69th-minute lead.