Francis Benali and Linvoy Primus relish south coast derby

Former Southampton defender Francis Benali is not mincing his words ahead of this weekend's south coast derby at Portsmouth.

"This is something that will be spoken about for years to come," he says.

Pompey and Saints meet in the league for the first time since April 2005 on Sunday and club legends Linvoy Primus and Benali are at pains to explain just how much the game between the fierce local rivals means to the area.

Benali, who made 312 League appearances for the Saints between 1987 and 2003, continued: "It's an opportunity for people to make themselves heroes for a long, long time.

"The players and staff will try to underplay it and we do have to remember that this is just one match in a 46 game season.

"But here and now, it feels like the biggest game ever. It's like a cup final, that's how big it is.

"The importance of this can not be underplayed."

Primus, who is head club liaison officer at Fratton Park now, is in agreement: "It's like 'this is it, this is the season.'

"For the fans it won't settle quickly, they'll be thinking about this for a long time no matter what the outcome."

A lot has changed for both clubs since Pompey's 4-1 success over the Saints in the Premier League on a spring day in 2005.

Both clubs have suffered points deductions for entering administration, both clubs have been relegated from the top flight - Southampton even dropped down to League One before gaining promotion back to the Championship last season - and Portsmouth have won an FA Cup.

The current game takes place with the two sides facing very different challenges.

Pompey have just recorded their first away success of the season and sit in 16th position in the Championship table, but again it is mainly off the field issues that have been making headlines.

The club's owners, Convers Sports Initiatives, went into administration and owner Vladimir Antonov stepped down. There is now a chance that the Fratton Park side could face a second points deduction in two years.

For Southampton the situation is altogether clearer.

Despite seeing their 21-match run of consecutive home wins come to end with a 2-2 draw with Blackpool last Saturday, the Saints remain top of the Championship, having won 13 of their 21 league matches.

But asked who will take the bragging rights in Sunday's encounter, both men are bullishly loyal.

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Benali said: "I predict a Saints win, I mean I'm obviously going to say that, but I really think they will win.

"I don't even think it'll be that close. I think if they get a couple of goals then it could be quite comprehensive.

However, Primus is confident that Pompey can put their off-field woes to one side and record their third successive derby win, after they beat the Saints 4-1 in the FA Cup in 2010: "Obviously the total opposite to Franny. Again, I just feel that we are on good form now, especially at home.

"I think there'll be a few goals in the game, I'm predicting a real thriller. I've got my ticket and I can't wait."

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