These two sides head into this game with a huge 12 point gap between them as Southampton continue their charge towards Europe whilst Newcastle struggle to maintain a top half position. The Magpies have had a rough ride this season with injuries totalling into double figures for much of the season. Southampton meanwhile have seen themselves emerge from their tough December/January fixture list in third position which surely means, barring catastrophic circumstances, that a European spot is on the cards. The turnaround for the Saints has been extraordinary but that sentiment won’t mean a lot come 17.30 this Saturday with Newcastle desperate for a first win in 2015.
Alan Pardew’s former side are still saddled with a ridiculous amount of injuries with ten players currently out or doubtful with knocks. Ryan Taylor (knee) and Rob Elliot (thigh) are the closest to returns with this weekend being a potential comeback date for the pair. Rolando Aaron’s (hamstring), Gabriel Obertan (thigh) and Siem De Jong (thigh) could all be back before the end of the month.
Jak Alnwick (shoulder), Adam Armstrong (ankle), Steven Taylor (calf), Mehdi Abeid (ankle) and Curtis Good (groin) are all out for undisclosed periods.
Southampton have been ticking along nicely so far this season but injuries have just started to creep into their squad so the next phase of their campaign could be trickier than first thought.
From Southampton’s six injuries, Sadio Mane is the closest to a return after his calf injury – although this week should be too soon. Star striker Jay Rodriguez is finally closing in on his return after his ACL injury which cost him a spot at the World Cup whilst Sam Gallagher should be back for early February.
The bad news is that Ronald Koeman’s side should be without Morgan Schneiderlin (groin), Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) and Victor Wangama (hamstring) for the trip to Newcastle after a costly few days including the FA Cup replay victory over Ipswich Town.
As well as these injuries, Southampton have Emmanuel Mayaka and Maya Yoshida away at the African Cup of Nations and Asian Cup respectively
- Southampton have dropped just two point from winning positions this season, the fewest in the league.
- Newcastle are unbeaten in their last ten home league games against Southampton (W8, D2).
- Newcastle are without a clean sheet against Southampton in their last eight Premier League games.
- The Saints have allowed fewer shots on target against them than any other side in the top flight – 58.
- Newcastle have benefitted from eight substitute goals this season. More than any other side.
Moussa Sissoko has been Newcastle’s most consistent performer in recent years despite the club’s yo-yo fortunes – and this season has been no different. The Frenchman has been linked with numerous high profile moves away from Tyneside because of his all action and robust playstyle with clubs such as Liverpool and Arsenal regularly linked with the midfielder.
Despite Newcastle’s poor form, Sissoko has remained at a constant level producing chances and lung busting enthusiasm to drive the Magpies onwards. So far this season, Sissoko has created 1.23 chances per 90 minutes played (p90), however, just the one assist has been produced from those opportunities. Sissoko has also won 39.08% of his total duels, which I thought was a little low for someone of his strength and ability. Despite being primarily a box to box midfielder, Sissoko tries to get involved in the opposition’s third as much as possible and has averaged 1.17 key passes p90. Impressively, Sissoko has averaged a 50% shot accuracy across the first half of the campaign – however, he has scored just two league goals. Despite this, I still think Sissoko will be Newcastle’s key man against a Southampton side missing both Wanyama and Schneiderlin.
Jose Fonte has enjoyed a really good season so far. Despite the loss of his defence partner from last season, Dejan Lovren, he has continued to command the Saints’ back four with astute leadership but this game will tell us how good he really is without two of the Premier League’s best midfielders in front of him. Former teammate Lovren has struggled since his move away from the St.Mary’s, primarily because of the lack of protection afforded to him by Wanyama and Schneiderlin – so this will be an interesting test for Fonte despite the reintroduction of players such as Jack Cork and Steven Davis.
Fonte has really continued from where he left off last season with a commanding percentage of 61.70% for aerial duels won. The Portuguese defender has also completed an impressive 2.90 interceptions p90 which is really high and this skill shows us how good his reading of the game is. Fonte also completes a block every other game which surprised me. I thought this figure would be higher but perhaps this best demonstrates the immense shield that exists ahead of him. Brilliantly, Fonte has made just one defensive error all season. I say brilliantly because his former partner, Lovren, has made six already this season – and he cost £20 million. What a laugh that final sentence must have been for the Saints faithful.
My prediction for this one is going to be a draw simply because I think that Southampton will struggle without their two defensive lynchpins. However, I don’t think they’ll be weakened enough to lose this game so perhaps a damage limitation draw away at Newcastle could be a good result. I’ll go for 1-1.