I’d make just two changes from the side that lost 2-0 to Liverpool last weekend, bringing in Ritchie and Perez for Atsu and Murphy.
We need to approach this game as we did Man Utd at home last time out, so playing practically the same side makes sense to me:
Merino looked off the pace at Anfield, but he’s the best options for me (presuming Shelvey does miss out). Hayden is an alternative, but a midfield combination of him and Diame seems far too defensive in a game we should be looking to attack.
Atsu and Murphy started last time out at Liverpool, however both were pretty ineffective and having Perez and Ritchie back in the side will make sense in a bid to replicate the front-foot performance we put in against Man Utd in our last game at St. James’.
We need more from Kenedy, who was sloppy last weekend, however he’s a player who’s far more suited to playing on the front foot – so this tomorrow’s game should hopefully suit him.
Having Gayle and Perez at it could be key. They had great energy and enthusiasm about them against Man Utd and never gave their centre-backs a moments rest. We need that again tomorrow to unsettle a Southampton side low on confidence.
Predicted NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1) – Dubravka– Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett – Diame, Merino – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Gayle
Here’s a few players to watch out for tomorrow’s visitors:
Mario Lemina – The central midfielder their best player at St Mary’s earlier in the season and he looks a cut above most of their players when I’ve watched them recently. An impressive all-rounder who looks destined for bigger things to me.
Ryan Bertrand – An England international full-back whose a threat going forward and often their out ball down the left. Ritchie and Yedlin will need to keep an eye on him.
James Ward-Prowse – Aside from Kevin De Bruyne, I don’t think there’s anyone with better delivery into the box than him. We’ll need to be on our guard from set pieces if he starts.
Dusan Tadic – Has plenty of ability but doesn’t always turn up. Could be a threat from the number 10 role. Another one for Diame to watch.
Predicted Southampton XI – (4-3-3) – McCarthy – Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand – Lemina, Romeu – Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Redmond – Carrillo
For an inside look into this weekend’s opponents, take a look at the latest edition of the ‘Opposition Opinion’ . A great insight into this weekend’s opponents.
Newcastle – 16th (29 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 3 / Lost: 1
Southampton – 17th ( 28 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 3 / Lost: 1
Benitez has confirmed that he will make a late decision tomorrow on Jonjo Shelvey, whilst Islam Slimani remains on the sidelines, with Huddersfield hit target on March 31st.
Rob Elliot and Jesus Gamez have been ruled out by Rafa today (what is going on with the latter I will never know!)
For Southampton, Steven Davis and Maya Yoshida are out with hamstring and knee injuries respectively, whilst striker Charlie Austin remains a long-term absentee.
Show the sort of desire, intensity and concentration levels as we did last time out at home against Man Utd and I’m almost certain we’ll get the result we need in this one – but doing that against a ‘lesser side’ just isn’t what we tend to do!
That being said, we can see the finish line now and I think Benitez and the boys will be fully focused here and ready to take all three points.
It’s a huge game, but I have faith in Benitez’s calming influence when it comes to these sort of situations. It’s down to the players to deliver, but I think we’ll have enough.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Southampton
Howay the lads!