Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino has warned Javi Gracia about English football’s competitiveness but insists it will present him with greater opportunities than he will ever have known.
The new Watford manager will oversee his first fixture since succeeding the sacked Marco Silva when they visit St Mary’s in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Pellegrino became familiar with Gracia’s methods during the latter’s time in charge at Osasuna and Malaga in LaLiga, where the Southampton manager excelled as a player before his move into coaching with Valencia and Alaves.
The Argentinian is yet to establish himself in England despite seven months passing since his arrival, even though so few points separate teams in the Premier League that a short run of good results could dramatically alter their season.
A further significant contrast with Spain – where Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona alone are expected to contest the title – comes with the budget afforded by Southampton being the world’s 18th highest-earning club, despite not being among England’s traditional powers.
“The best and worst thing is right now the Premier League is one of the hardest competitions,” said Pellegrino.
“You have got 10 or 12 teams within six points and it’s really difficult to see another league with the same tight competition.
“Now the difference between the last one at the bottom and the middle of the table: Liverpool can beat Manchester City and lose to Swansea in one week. It’s really hard to find in any other league.
“But here in a small team you have more possibility to buy players than in Spain, because budgets are more equal so you have possibilities to improve.
“In Spain, if you’re lucky, you have to bring players in on loan to try to pass the first couple of years and, little by little, invest money and 100 per cent be successful in this. When you fail in a couple of targets it’s really difficult.
“I know (Gracia) as a colleague, followed him at Malaga. He was there in charge and did a good job and I followed this team.
“He did really well at Malaga, who won a lot of important games, were well organised, always playing attacking football but always really solid. It’s something we’re expecting on Saturday.”
Southampton will hand late fitness tests to left-backs Sam McQueen and Ryan Bertrand, given the latter is struggling with flu at a time when Matt Targett has joined Fulham on loan.
The fit-again Maya Yoshida could yet be used out of position if they are ruled out, and Shane Long is also again available to compete for selection with Manolo Gabbiadini in the absence of the injured Charlie Austin, and with new signing Guido Carrillo not expected to feature.