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Fearless Saints ready for Everton test, says Hasenhuettl

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - RB Leipzig vs TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany - April 21, 2018 RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl before the match REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/Files

(Reuters) - Everton deserve to be at the summit of the Premier League standings but Southampton have slowly gathered steam going into Sunday’s league fixture and will throw down the gauntlet, Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuettl said on Friday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton side are unbeaten with four wins and a draw, against champions Liverpool, and have been a team on the rise since the season started last month.

On the other hand, Southampton started the season with two defeats but have since turned things around, with last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Chelsea underlining their resilience after they came from behind twice to earn a point.

“When you look at how they (Everton) play, it’s no coincidence they’re unbeaten. They’ve done a fantastic job,” Hasenhuettl told reporters.

“We played last week against a team that had a lot of quality on the pitch and showed we’re not scared.

“The Premier League is a long run and not a 100 metre sprint and we know it’s tough to win games. We’ve become more competitive in the last three games and this is the way we want to go.”

Hasenhuettl confirmed Stuart Armstrong was back after testing positive for COVID-19 on international duty with Scotland and his return was welcome news with Moussa Djenepo injured and Theo Walcott ineligible to face his parent club.

“He’s back and didn’t have a lot of symptoms,” Hasenhuettl said. “A little bit, yes, but he could immediately train hard with us and had no further issues, so he feels good.

“We know that we have a problem with Theo being out... and Moussa is still out with an injury, so we have a little bit of a problem on the 10 position, but Stuey has an opportunity, absolutely.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge