As games go, this one hardly has any billing at all. The “tussle for 8th” just doesn’t sound inspiring.
However a look at the recent history of these two clubs would perhaps suggest that tussling for 8th isn’t actually a bad prospect at all.
United were in the Championship just four seasons ago and at that same time the Saints were in the league below. Southampton have done well, consolidating last season and pushing on this although the feeling with Newcastle is that we could have tried to push on a bit further although realistically a look at the top of the table would seem to suggest that the top six positions are somewhat settled before the season even starts so just how far we could “push on” with our, ahem, limited resources remains an open question.
Looking shorter term, three points are on offer and both sides will be looking for them. Southampton will want to win in front of their own fans whilst United will want to win to put the midweek defeat against Everton behind them. Which way it goes will depend on the day.
Mauricio Pochettino has a number of injury concerns ahead of the match. Nathaniel Clyne and Kelvin Davis are definitely ruled out while defender Maya Yoshida looks set to miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. Additionally Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin all doubtful.
Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy remained sidelined although the latter is expected to resume training next week. Tim Krul is also set to miss the next few games after picking up a knee injury so Rob Elliot will deputise. Davide Santon could be set for a return following his recent absence.
The two sides drew 1-1 at St James’ Park back in December so there is no “league double” on offer this time around. What I can say is that this fixture tends to heavily favour the home side as the following figures are set to show.
On the South Coast (The Dell and St Mary’s) there have been 38 games played between the two sides. United have won just five times compared to 22 wins for Southampton with 11 draws making up the rest. In the North East 39 games have been played with Newcastle taking all the points on 29 occasions compared to just the four wins for Southampton with a further six draws between the pair.
That means that United just shade the overall head-to-head having won 34 of 77 matches to date. Southampton have won 26 matches with the points being shared 17 times.
Stats and facts…
Southampton have lost just one of their last 20 home league games against Newcastle. That was a 2-1 defeat back in September 2004 – a game in which Stephen Carr registered his one and only goal for United.
The last goalless draw between these sides was in 1972 at St James’ Park: 41 league matches ago.
Southampton have lost 18 points from winning positions this term – more than any other side- while Newcastle have gone on to lose all the nine matches in which they’ve been trailing at half-time – the worst record in the division.
I’m not sure whether it’s just me or if anyone else is feeling like this, but I’m honestly struggling to find myself getting motivated for these games. The reality is that we are where we’ll roughly end up come the end of the season and that has been the case for some time. It’s just not exciting having nothing to play for. dare I say it, but even the lingering threat of relegation last season was more enticing than what we are going through now. Having said that, a win is always welcome.
Alan Pardew will return to the stadium, if not the dugout, tomorrow and apparently we’ll notice his presence once more. I’m not quite sure what that means but if I was a player I’d consider wearing a skull cap, just in case. It will be interesting to see if there is actually any reaction because if I’m struggling for motivation then is it not at all possible for the players, despite the fact they are paid a fortune, to be feeling the same?
I hope not as the fans who have travelled the length of the country deserve much better than that.
Howay the lads!
Date: Saturday, 29th March, 2014
Venue: St Mary’s Stadium