Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has hailed Eddie Howe for sticking to his “brave” footballing principles, backing Bournemouth to preserve their Barclays Premier League status.
Koeman’s Saints will face the Cherries at the Vitality Stadium in league action on Tuesday night for the first time since a 3-1 win in League One in March 2011.
The Dutchman praised Bournemouth counterpart Howe for instilling a deep-seated philosophy of attacking, possession football with the promoted club.
The Southampton boss believes Howe’s men will avoid the drop this term, and wants both south-coast sides to thrive in the top flight.
“From the outside, I’m always looking to managers about the philosophy of the team, and he has created a way to play attractive football, with good, technical players,” Koeman said of Howe. “And that’s what I like.
“It’s brave and it’s also in my opinion the most difficult way.
“It’s easier to give the goalkeeper the ball, him come out of his box and play a long ball, and you fight for the second one.
“Some teams in the Premier League play like this, but I like a different way of football.
“He’s a very good manager. He’s been very successful, of course. He’s now a long time the manager over there.
“He’s doing a fantastic job. If they stay in the Premier League that will be a great effort for them and for the manager.
“They try to play football, be creative and play offensively, and that’s what I like.
“I hope they can stay in the Premier League and I think they can – it will be nice to continue with derbies against them.
“They are doing well, they are strong, very competitive at the moment.
“They are still in with good possibility of staying in the Premier League and that would be great. It makes it more special for us if you play derbies against them.
“It’s fantastic for the south coast to have two teams in the Premier League.”
Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long is fighting to be fit in time for the trip after damaging a hamstring in Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Chelsea.
Koeman rated his in-form forward as “50-50” with a late fitness test in the offing.
“Shane Long was injured at the weekend but it’s not final that he’s out,” the former Holland defender said.
“It could be difficult for him for (Tuesday). I think he’s 50-50. He’s doing well, in good form, full of confidence.
“He’s creating a lot of dangerous moments in our attacking and scoring goals.
“You’d always like to have everyone available but injuries are part of football and we have a strong squad.”
Jose Fonte and Kelvin Davis are Saints’ only survivors from that 3-1 League One win over Bournemouth back in 2011.
Both teams have developed out of sight since, and Southampton manager Koeman believes Bournemouth have made big strides even with this campaign itself.
Southampton eased past Bournemouth 2-0 at St Mary’s in November, but Koeman expects a far tougher challenge on Tuesday night.
“Maybe at that stage of the season they had some problems, maybe still trying to adapt to the Premier League,” he said.
“They had some players out injured at that moment and some different men in.
“But they are a tough team to face and if we’re not 100 per cent we’ll have a problem.”