London: Five consecutive defeats for Southampton suggests the over-achieving south coast club`s season is on the wane, but Everton manager Roberto Martinez is wary of a backlash.
Everton travel to Southampton on Saturday on the back of a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Queens Park Rangers on Monday which lifted them to 10th in the Premier League, five points behind the fifth-placed Saints.
Ronald Koeman`s Southampton began the season in tremendous form and were being tipped as genuine contenders for a top-four finish until consecutive league defeats by Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Burnley.
This week, the poor run continued when they were humbled in the League Cup quarter-finals by third tier side Sheffield United.
Yet Martinez warned on Thursday: "I don`t assess Southampton in their current moment of form.
"I assess them over what they have done all season. They are a joy to watch. They are based on attacking football and full of flair. I really like watching Southampton and they are a team who can compete for the top six.
"I know how good Ronald Koeman is as a manager. His football influence is unique and huge."
While Everton, who finished fifth last season, have had a slow start to the current campaign, Martinez believes they can still be in the mix for European places come May.
"In the league we knew we dropped points and we are to blame for that," he said.
"The league will be decided in the last eight games of the season and we are trying to get as many points for that period to see how far we can go. We can beat anyone.
"I am very excited about the second half of the season because I can see something special."
Everton will be without midfielder Kevin Mirallas for the trip to Southampton after he was taken off the field on a stretcher against QPR, but the news is not too bad.
"We were very worried after the (QPR) game about Kevin because there was an action where you felt the ankle was damaged but the damage is the least it could be," he said.
"I don`t expect him to be out for too long. The game on Saturday is a bit too early for him but I wouldn`t rule him out of any of the fixtures over the Christmas period."