Racing Metro 92 coach Laurent Labit says Saturday’s Rugby Champions Cup opener against Saints is ‘almost like a last 16 game’.
Jim Mallinder’s men head to Paris hoping to fire a shot across the bows of the side considered their main rivals in Pool 5.
If Saints can conquer Racing, they would be optimistic of progression, with Ospreys and Treviso their other pool-stage rivals.
And Labit needs no telling how important this weekend’s meeting will be, with his team also desperate to impress in Europe this season.
“We used the European Cup to prepare for the Top 14 last season, but this time around it is a real target for us to do well in Europe,” Labit said.
“We have a group of players that are better in quality and experience and so we can rally have a go at both competitions.
“The Welsh players we have recruited and Jonny Sexton know how important this competition is and have experienced what it’s like in the latter stages.
“A quarter-final would be a great achievement.
“The name has changed, but for us the competition is more or less the same. It is 20 teams instead of 24 and that just makes it a bit harder.
“There is going to be a special atmosphere because we have never been out of our pool before. That is a real ambition for us this season.
“I don’t know if we are able to win this competition, but the first step for us must be to reach the knockout stage.
“The game against Northampton is almost like a last 16 game.
“We know we can’t afford to lose a game at home and when you see the form they are in right now we know it is going to be very hard for us.”