These two sides are both secure in the top half of the Premier League, but this match could determine who finishes in 8th place. Newcastle are currently above their hosts on Saturday, however, a win for Southampton would see them leapfrog the Magpies. These sides still have plenty to play for as World Cup places are up for grabs for some players, while others are playing for their future. Mauricio Pochettino and Alan Pardew will have already started planning for next season, therefore these final seven matches will be crucial for them as they continue to shape their squad for the next campaign. Although both teams appear to be settled in mid-table, neither will want to lose on Saturday against a close rival in the league.
Southampton have lost three of their last five matches as they currently lie in 8th place. They have continued to play good football, but they have started to leak goals, conceding 11 in these five games. This may show complacency and lack of motivation as their season appears to be petering out. The main motivating factor for the Southampton players is the World Cup as Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana all have a very good chance of making the England squad. Despite their good season, there is still uncertainty at boardroom level after Nicola Cortese left the club, so it will be interesting to see if Southampton push on from this season or if they choose to sell some of their star players.
Newcastle will be boosted by the return of Alan Pardew to the stadium as he now moves on to his four match touchline ban after serving his stadium ban. His team were poor in his absence, therefore his return could prove to provide a timely boost. They lost two of the three matches that he missed, including being outclassed by Everton in a convincing 3-0 defeat during the week. The Magpies papered over the cracks with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend and they will need to improve considerably if they are to have a good finish to the season. There is a lot of talk about a summer rebuild with one local paper reporting that 6-7 players could be joining the club in the close season; this is needed as Tuesday showed that they are a long way from challenging the top six. This should give the existing squad extra motivation to perform in the final 7 games to ensure they remain part of the manager’s plans.
The two sides played out a very competitive match earlier in the season at St James’ Park which ended in a 1-1 draw. Yoan Gouffran opened the scoring for Newcastle, before Jay Rodriguez equalised for the home side. In the corresponding fixture last season, Southampton ran out 2-0 winners. Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez were the scorers for the home side on that occasion.
Adam Lallana has had a really good season so far for Southampton, being called up to the England squad in the process. He has a great chance of making the starting eleven in Brazil, but he needs a few more good performances to secure his place in Roy Hodgson’s team. Southampton play a fluid three behind Rickie Lambert, which allows Lallana to find pockets of space behind the striker.
Lallana can be destructive when the ball is at his feet in the final third, as he can both create and score goals, which is why it’s important Newcastle limit his time in possession. He creates a chance every 44 minutes which highlights the danger he poses to Newcastle.
Southampton have relied heavily on his contribution in the final third as he has scored 8 goals and made 5 assists. Alan Pardew used to manage Lallana, so he will know all about the danger he poses, therefore it is likely that Newcastle will have a plan in place to deal with the midfielder.
Newcastle will have to dominate the midfield on Saturday if they are to have any chance of taking anything from the game, due to Southampton’s fluid, high-pressing style. Therefore, their midfield enforcer, Cheick Tiote, will be key in determining the result. He has made an impressive 55 interceptions, while his tackle success rate of 68.97% shows his qualities in the middle of the park.
In recent weeks, he has started to take on a more creative role as his side struggled to score goals, but it will be imperative for Newcastle that he goes back to playing his natural game at St Mary’s. He will need to unsettle Jack Cork and Steven Davis in the Southampton midfield to stop the opposition playing their natural fluid game. Newcastle may also opt to press Southampton to force them into errors high up the pitch and Tiote would be integral to that.
Southampton were dealt a double blow against Tottenham as Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne both picked up injuries, therefore they are both doubts for the weekend. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama are also doubts after both missed the Tottenham match. Kelvin Davis and Guly do Prado are expected to be missing. Calum Chambers and Gaston Ramirez could make a return to the starting eleven if the Rodriguez and Clyne miss out.
Newcastle are still set to be missing their top scorer Loic Remy, while Mathieu Debuchy is also expected to miss the trip to the South Coast. Tim Krul has a knee injury and will miss the next ‘2-3 games’ according to Pardew, so Rob Elliott is likely to make his first Premier League start of the season. Davide Santon could make a return from illness, which would prove a timely boost as Newcastle have looked shaky at left back in his absence. Gabriel Obertan and Sammy Ameobi will also miss the match on Saturday through injury. Hatem Ben Arfa has impressed during sub appearances in the last two matches and the Frenchman is pushing for a start. If Pardew opts to start Ben Arfa, then Luuk de Jong could be the player to drop to the bench.
Newcastle were unable to deal with the pace, power and movement of Everton on Tuesday which makes me think Southampton will win this weekend as Pochettino’s men play a similar style to the Toffees. Lallana will prove a constant threat to an under-strength Newcastle side and he could have a very productive afternoon. If Newcastle had Loic Remy and Mathieu Debuchy available, then they could have given Southampton a good game, but without them, the Magpies look poor. Their over-reliance on Remy is a worry that needs to be addressed in the summer, especially if the striker opts to move elsewhere instead of making his move to St James’ Park permanent.
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