Ronald Koeman believes Mark Hughes, who was “always fighting”, has built a Stoke team in his own mould.
Hughes, who Koeman came up against many times during their playing days, was a technically gifted but physical striker who did not give defenders a moment’s peace.
While the Welshman has adapted Stoke’s style from their time under Tony Pulis, with talents like Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay pulling the strings, Koeman still sees the hallmarks of Hughes the robust player.
Koeman, whose Southampton side host City on Saturday, said: “Mark, as a player, was a tough one. He was always fighting, in an honest way, on the pitch.
“He was always trying to cause problems. He never made it easy to play, he was always pressing, with good movement.
“He was always playing with a high intensity and he is doing that as a manager with his players. They play with a high intensity, they give their opponent really hard work to beat them, and that’s a reflection of the coach.
“Maybe they have a little bit more individual quality now. Bojan, Shaqiri and Afellay are not really strong, physical players, they are technical players. That changed a lot but the system is the same and we know we have to play at a good level to beat them.”
Stoke have kept clean sheets in their last four away matches while Southampton have let in just 13 goals all season, so Koeman is not anticipating a high-scoring encounter at St Mary’s.
“I don’t expect a lot of goals. We are close together,” added the Saints boss, whose side are bidding to extend their unbeaten run to nine matches in all competitions.
“It’s always hard to beat Stoke. We had that experience last year. We played three times against them and every game it was difficult.
“I think the key to our run is good organisation.
“We had a difficult start, we had some new players, we lost some players, and you need always time to improve yourself. I think the confidence in the team is one of the key words at the moment.
“We are close to the level that we want and we have to work hard. We have a tough programme in the coming weeks, but we are prepared for that.”