If people thought Brighton was a must win (a game we lost), then goodness knows what some people are thinking going into this one.
We’ve not won in nine, it’s been our worst start since 1898, we’re bottom of the league and we NEED to now make the most of these favourable fixtures before it’s too late.
Given our desperate need for a win and Southampton’s woeful home record, I’m really hoping we come out of the gates quickly and attack them from the off – just as we did in what was almost a superb win at Man Utd three weeks ago.
They’ve won just one Premier League home game since November last year. That’s a stat that should give us confidence going into this one, however Brighton had not won any of their last 17 away games in the league before they came to St James’ Park last weekend, and we all know how that game turned out.
Rafa had a knack of pulling off a big win just when we desperately needed it last season (Palace at home, Stoke away, West Ham away) and I’m hoping and praying for another of those season defining moments in this one to kick start our push for safety.
Here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:
I’ll keep this pretty short and sweet as it seems to me that our team doesn’t need to change given how good we were for most of our last away game at Old Trafford.
There’ll be plenty calls for Rondon to start (and for Perez to be dropped), but as much as I want to see him start, I doubt the big Venezuelan will be anything other than a late impact sub this weekend.
The key to our success going forward at Man Utd was the performances from Shelvey, Kenedy, Perez and Muto – however the latter two were poor against Brighton, so let’s hope they’re back at it. Shelvey and Kenedy can’t do it all on their own.
(4-4-1-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett – Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy – Perez – Muto.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in the Southampton side:
Danny Ings (ST): He’s looked their most dangerous player whenever I’ve seen them and by far their biggest goal threat. He’s unlucky not to have more than three goals in the league so far this season.
Mario Lemina (CM): They paid a lot of money to sign him from Juventus last year and you can see why. He looks a very good all round midfielder and someone I can see getting a better move for himself over the next year or so.
Ryan Bertrand (LB): He’s very attacking and will look to get in between and beyond Yedlin and Ritchie down our right. The applies to Cedric Soares (their right-back).
Predicted Southampton XI – (4-4-1-2) McCarthy – Cedric, Vestegaard, Hoedt, Bertrand – Elyounoussi, Lemina, Hojbjerg, Redmond – Austin, Ings.
Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Salomon Rondon and Ciaran Clark are both fit and available, however Paul Dummett‘should be OK’ to play after missing our last two. Aside from Lejeune, we seem to have no injuries.
Mario Lemina was subbed off last weekend with a knee injury but Hughes is now expecting him to be fit – with them having a fully fit squad if he does make it.
I say this more in hope than expectation, but I think this just get that all important first win here.
I can see us going for it from the first minute and aiming to replicate the sort of performance that put us 0-2 up at Old Trafford early on. Southampton’s crowd will be edgy if they don’t start well, so getting the first goal is massive – although allowing them to score first could see our fragile confidence levels sink to new lows.
The first goal will be key – and I can’t see more than a draw if they get it – but I fancy us to come out of the blocks quickly and hold on for a vital 1-2 win.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Newcastle
Howay the lads!