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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Thomas Hitzlsperger has challenged his Everton teammates to prove their recent plaudits aren’t misplaced by putting in another top-notch display at Southampton on Monday.

David Moyes’ men have earned rave reviews on their climb to the edges of the Champions League qualification places this season, impressing many with their effervescent, positive style of play.

In 22 league games, the Blues have suffered defeat just thrice and former Germany international Hitzlsperger says it’s vital not to let that record slip at St Mary’s.

Fifteenth-placed Saints were thrown into shock upheaval on Friday when boss Nigel Adkins was sacked and replaced by Argentine Mauricio Pochettino.

But the 30-year-old former West Ham and Aston Villa man insists the Merseysiders must remain wary of their opponents.

He said: “People will be watching us and expecting a lot from us because we've played so well in the past and that's what we've got to justify.

“There is a lot of confidence among the players now with the results we've had but we definitely won't underestimate Southampton.

“They're fighting for every point, they want to stay in this league and they're a good footballing side.

“But we have enough confidence to go there and say we want to win this game, and we've got every chance to do so.”

At Goodison Park in September, Everton had to come from behind against Monday's hosts before eventually recording a 3-1 win.

Hitzlsperger says that encounter should serve as a warning of what to expect on a ground the Toffees last visited in February 2005.

“When I watched them play here at Goodison Park, they started really well and they gave us a tough time for the first 20 to 25 minutes,” he recalled. “It took us a while to break them down but I think once we'd done that we made it look easy in the end.

"But they've got some very good footballers in their side so we've got to be prepared and switched on.”

Hitzlsperger last found the back of a Premier League net while appearing for West Ham back in May 2011.

And having recently agreed to extend his stay at Everton until at least the summer, the 30-year-old admits he cannot wait to bring his goalscoring drought to an end.

“I'm very keen to score because obviously that's a bit extra,” he added. “Scoring a goal for your team is always quite special, especially when you're not a striker.

“I've always enjoyed trying to hit the target and scoring goals, so hopefully it comes around quite quickly.”

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