Newcastle United: Previewing Southampton with Saints Marching

WATFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Southampton fans enjoy the pre match atmosphere prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Southampton at Vicarage Road on January 13, 2018 in Watford, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
WATFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Southampton fans enjoy the pre match atmosphere prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Southampton at Vicarage Road on January 13, 2018 in Watford, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Newcastle United face Southampton tomorrow, and Saints fans are certainly feeling confident.

Newcastle United and manager Rafa Benitez enter a key fixture against Southampton, with both clubs battling against relegation. Following a 2-0 loss at Liverpool, the Magpies will clearly want to see more positivity this weekend.

The two sides fought to a 2-2 draw this past October at the St. Mary’s Stadium, and there is every reason to believe that tomorrow’s game will see high effort and high emotion. For Toon fans, we reached out to Saints Marching to get the inside scoop on the opponent.

I spoke with Site Expert Chris Hughes about what to expect when the two teams meet tomorrow afternoon.

Roy Emanuel: “Who are three Southampton players that Newcastle fans should keep an eye on in this match?”

Chris Hughes: “The first is Mario Lemina – the Gabonese international has been arguably our Player of the Season so far. His runs from deep in the midfield help us tick as he connects defence and midfield better than anyone else. He only has the one goal this season but his influence on the team goes beyond the basic stats – his passing accuracy is often the best of anyone on the pitch.

Secondly would be Josh Sims at this point in time. He started last week and came off the bench the week before, and he seems like a fresh signing. He’s young, direct and wants to create – assuming he starts this weekend he’ll look to run at the Newcastle defence and could wreak havoc.

Finally, I’d argue James Ward-Prowse would be the last to keep an eye on. I say “argue” because Josh Sims played down the right – where JWP normally starts – in the match against Stoke. With Guido Carrillo up top, Ward-Prowse will look to play crosses in and create down the right side with Cedric behind him. JWP has been in good form this calendar year and he’ll look to continue this run this weekend.”

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RE: “How much has the loss of Virgil Van Dijk hurt the defence this season?”

CH: “At this very point in time, I’m tempted to say no because both of our first-choice defenders in Hoedt and Stephens are in really good form. The issue is both of them are close to suspension and our current back-up – Maya Yoshida  – is out until April. VVD hadn’t been that impressive this season aside from a couple of a good performances and therefore the loss of him personally hasn’t really been felt.

What I would say, is that we should’ve 100% replaced him in the January window as we could soon only have two first-choice defenders if either Hoedt or Stephens get suspended.”

RE: “Are you confident that the Saints can avoid relegation?”

CH: “As naive a comment as it may seem, I don’t think the fear of relegation as ever really set in for me, as bad as that sounds. I think we have a squad with enough quality that we should be able to survive, but I think it’s going to go right down the wire and that’s why we need to start picking up points in the next few games before the fixture list gets tougher.”

RE: “How much have managerial changes during the past few years affected the supporters? Any concern for the future of Mauricio Pellegrino?”

CH: “I think the issue the fans have right now regarding managers is who exactly we could bring in. As shown with hungry, bigger-name managers like Koeman they leave without much sense of loyalty whereas lesser-known managers like Claude Puel and Pellegrino have struggled to produce the goods. We’ve been linked with the likes of Marco Silva and Thomas Tuchel in the last year but managers like those would easily make the step up after a good season with the Saints and we’d be right back where we started.

Regarding Pellegrino, I believe the board will definitely part ways with him at the end of the season regardless of where we finish in the league. The players apparently like him and we could still finish near mid-table, but he’s simply not been good enough. He’s tactically naive, scared of making brave decisions and frankly seems void of any realisation of the very immediate prospect of relegation.”

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RE: “What is your prediction for the game tomorrow?”

CH: “It’s a tough one. I actually have a good friend who I’m watching the game with so I’m desperate for us to win to save embarrassment! It’s going to be tense, but I’m going for 2-1 Saints.”