(Reuters) - Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said their rivalry with south coast rivals Southampton was growing but conceded they must first establish themselves in the Premier League to bridge the gap between the two sides.
Howe’s Bournemouth, who won promotion to the top flight in 2015, are currently 15th in the league table ahead of Sunday’s home match against 11th-placed Southampton.
The two teams are situated some 50 kilometres apart, but having faced each other six times in league action since 1961, the intense rivalry enjoyed by Southampton and Portsmouth has not developed.
“The rivalry is growing,” Howe told a news conference on Friday. “It’s up to us grow as a club and to continue to challenge to become a serious rival for Southampton, I still feel we are still some way off that.
“Our games against them have been close, we probably should’ve beaten them at their place last season and they deservedly beat us here.”
A brace from Jay Rodriguez earned Southampton a 3-1 victory on their last visit to the Vitality Stadium before the two teams played out a goalless draw at St Mary’s.
Mauricio Pellegrino has since taken charge of Southampton at the start of this season as they target a top-half finish.
“They have a good, experienced manager so we know it will make for a tough test on Sunday,” Howe added.
“We know that if we play to our potential that we can be very competitive in the match.”
Bournemouth face a busy and potentially difficult run of fixtures in December with matches against Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City lined up before Christmas.
“It’s a challenge and exciting, it’s imperative that we get as many points as we can and do our best to get them,” Howe said.
“What’s important now is the month ahead, we can’t afford to have a poor month and need to start the month on Sunday in good fashion.”
Howe has given Junior Stanislas a “50-50” chance to feature this weekend as the winger hopes to return from a groin injury suffered against Chelsea in October.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge