Southampton’s latest fixture sees them take on another struggling welterweight in the form of Newcastle United, in the hopes they can exact more misery on the beleaguered north-east outfit and take their first three points in 8 weeks.
The Magpies currently sit rock bottom in the Premier League, with just a couple of points chalked onto the table. They have failed to win a game in any competition so far this season, and have struggled immensely to score goals, netting their only two points thanks to 0-0 draws with Cardiff City and Crystal Palace. Southampton meanwhile added another point to their tally after their goalless draw to Bournemouth last time out, meaning they are perched in 16th place, just a point clear of the drop zone.
The Saints were unfortunate not to snatch a result from the high-flying Cherries on Saturday. Eddie Howe’s side began the game like the form side, bursting out the blocks and nearly converting very early into the game, but slowly they let the away side grow into proceedings. Despite this, Southampton were wasteful with the opportunities they got, and would have been kicking themselves knowing they could have been victors despite their overall good performance against a stronger opponent.
Newcastle on the other hand were subjects to a 1-0 home loss to Brighton, who grabbed the decisive goal on 29 minutes when Jose Izquierdo’s strike deflected in off Beram Kayal. Rafa Benitez had to watch his side underwhelm once more as they continued to lack quality in the final third; Jonjo Shelvey went closest to scoring an equaliser for Newcastle, but his curling free-kick was saved by Matt Ryan.
Over the last few years this fixture has been fruitful for Southampton; they’ve registered four home wins against Newcastle since returning to the Premier League in 2012, so it certainly wouldn’t be out of character for Saints to compound Rafa Benitez’s issues on Saturday.
However, the last game these outfits played out ended in the Magpies trouncing Saints 3-0, consisting of Kenedy’s first half brace and Matt Ritchie’s effort from outside the box on 57 minutes to end any hopes Saints had of a second-half fightback.
Mark Hughes has confirmed that Mario Lemina is in contention to face Newcastle this weekend, having overcome a minor problem with his left knee. The midfielder was forced off early on Saturday after landing awkwardly, but the manager has been encouraged with his progress in training this week.
He’ll be monitored in the run up to this weekend’s St Mary’s clash, but Hughes is hopeful of selecting from a fully fit Saints squad.
“We’re okay, Mario Lemina came off against Bournemouth and was sore early in the week. But we’re pleased as it doesn’t look like he’s sustained any significant damage,” the boss said.
“It was jarring of the knee and a bit of hyper-extension. But it looks like he’ll be fit as long as he doesn’t have any reaction to the work we’ve done today. Other than him, we have nobody unavailable.”
Newcastle meanwhile are only missing centre-half Florian Lejeune from their starting XI; the 27-year-old Frenchman suffered knee-ligament damage during a pre-season training session in July and will not play again until 2019. He has been a huge miss for Newcastle, who have lacked his ball-playing presence at the heart of their defence, but has updated fans on his rehabilitation progress recently through posts to his Instagram. Salomon Rondon and Ciaran Clark are expected to be available after minor injuries.
Predicted line ups:
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand; Elyounoussi, Lemina, Hojbjerg, Redmond; Ings, Austin.
Lemina will be expected to started by Hughes if deemed fit, who will be key to breaking down Newcastle with his pace and energy. Charlie Austin may well get another start to end his goal drought, as the Englishman put in a good shift last week and will understandably be hungry to get his desired goal.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett; Shelvey, Diame; Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy; Muto.
Benitez should name the same side as their last outing given that there weren’t any injury problems. Yoshinori Muto and Kenedy will be key for Newcastle if they are to go all out for the win, as the pair were on target when they put 2 past Manchester United inside 10 minutes in their 3-2 defeat prior to the international break. The Magpies have therefore shown they have it in them to score, but they don’t do it on enough occasions, and with Southampton looking far more solid in defence and threatening in attack against Bournemouth, a far better side, they could struggle once more.
Prediction – Southampton 1-0 Newcastle
(Quote credits: Southampton FC)