(Reuters) - Southampton suffered a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City on Saturday but Jack Stephens says he is happy with the way his defensive partnership with Maya Yoshida is developing.
With former skipper Jose Fonte having moved to West Ham in January and Virgil van Dijk going down with a long-term ankle injury, manager Claude Puel only had Stephens and the Japanese international available as recognised central defenders.
The duo have played a key role in helping Southampton keep two clean sheets in their last four Premier League games.
"You can see that Maya and I have become stronger together," he continued," Stephens told the club website. "I think that just comes with playing with each other regularly, and hopefully we can carry that on and finish the season strongly."
Stephens, who has started nine league games this season, said there was no time to dwell on Saturday's home defeat as they faced a daunting trip to league leaders Chelsea on April 25.
"Chelsea is up next and we want to get a result," the 23-year-old added. "It's not going to be easy because none of these games are but we need to go into it with the right attitude.”
Southampton trail eighth-placed West Bromwich Albion by four points, with two games in hand, ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)