Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill says Saints have every chance of winning the Aviva Premiership this season.
Saints and Tigers square up at Franklin’s Gardens this afternoon, hoping to claim local bragging rights and, more importantly, a key victory in the race for the play-offs.
Jim Mallinder’s men sit four points behind their easy midlands foes, who are second in the standings.
But Saints are in good form having won their past four league games, culminating in a last-gasp win at Wasps last weekend.
And Cockerill sees this weekend’s opposition as real contenders for the Premiership crown.
He said: “Saints had been written off a few weeks ago but they are well in the mix now. They are a good side and one that can very much win the competition.
“With the local rivalry between us and all of the other things that will be in the melting pot, it should be a good game.”
Tigers will be desperate to claim their seventh successive win against Saints this weekend, knowing a top two place is up for grabs.
And Cockerill needs no reminding how significant the game will be, especially with the local rivalry element added to the mix.
“My first (local derby) was in 1993, the semi-final of the Pilkington Cup at Welford Road,” reflected the Tigers director of rugby.
“You got a sense from the people that had been here for a while that it was a pretty important fixture and that gets drilled into you here from the day you arrive.
“It’s a healthy rivalry and we have a lot of respect for the them and their supporters.
“We know Jim and I know Westy pretty well. The rivalry comes from the fact that we have respect for each other but that we are just down the road from each other and we do things differently.
“That spice is good and you need that rivalry and I am sure the players feel it. I know the coaching staff do.”