- Jose Fonte relishing Sunday's clash with a Liverpool side containing three former Southampton teammates
- Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana all set to feature for Reds at London Stadium
- West Ham United defender says Hammers are determined to compete on same level as Liverpool
For the second Premier League fixture in succession, Jose Fonte will shove sentiment aside when he comes up against his former Southampton colleagues.
After helping West Ham United defeat Tottenham Hotspur and ex-Saints Mauricio Pochettino and Toby Alderweireld last Friday, Fonte will face no fewer than three of his old St Mary’s allies when the Hammers host Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Alongside Fonte, Reds midfielder Adam Lallana was part of the Southampton squad which secured back-to-back promotions to reach the Premier League in 2012, while right-back Nathaniel Clyne and centre-half Dejan Lovren formed part of a solid defence alongside the Portugal star in 2013/14. A fourth former Saints teammate, Sadio Mane, will miss Sunday’s game at London Stadium through injury.
While they were friends on the south coast, Fonte says he will consider his old pals ‘enemies’ when they visit east London.
“It’s always special to see my old teammates, my old friends, as we shared so many good moments together,” the defender told the Official Website. “Obviously, it’s nice to see them, but during the 90 minutes we’re enemies so we want to beat them and they want to beat us.
“It’s going to be special, it’s going to be good. The atmosphere is going to be buzzing after this last win on Friday. We expect a tough game again, but we want to give the fans something to be proud of and another memorable afternoon.”
Obviously, it’s nice to see them, but during the 90 minutes we’re enemies so we want to beat them and they want to beat us
Fonte and Lallana played alongside one another well over 100 times – winning the Football League Trophy together with Michail Antonio in 2010 – between 2010 and 2014, when the England midfielder departed for Liverpool.
The UEFA Euro 2016 winner is a big fan of the creative midfielder, who has become one of the Premier League’s top performers in recent seasons.
“We came from League One,” he confirmed. “We started from the bottom and went straight up to the Premier League in the same team.
“I’ve seen the progression of Adam, all the way to the national team as well, so I couldn’t be more happy for him because he’s a great player. I saw that from the first day I watched him.
“He’s very skilful, a very creative player with lots of ability with both feet.”
Fonte also has a huge amount of respect for Clyne and Lovren, who he shared a back four with as Southampton finished eighth in the Premier League three years ago.
“Clyney was my main support alongside my right, with his speed next to me!” the 33-year-old smiled. “Then Lovren, you know, we had a great partnership and we were best friends outside the pitch also.
“We still maintain a good relationship and I walk with him frequently and when it clicks, it’s easy. We had a great season together, had one of the best defences in the league and he has done an amazing job.
“He had a difficult first season, but now you can see why they got him, because without him Liverpool would be struggling a little bit, in my opinion.
“I was lucky to have played with these great players and I learned a lot from them as well.”
While Liverpool have not won the title since 1990, Fonte still believes the visit of the Reds is among the biggest games of the season for any Premier League club.
“It’s because of the history, isn’t it?” he asked, rhetorically. “Because of all of the past and all of the fans, Liverpool will always be a big club and we want to compete against them.
“We’re a big club as well, so we expect an exciting game.”