Last week’s win at Leicester was huge, allowing us to sit back and enjoy this one – a game that looked set to be a relegation six-pointer just a few weeks ago.
Both sides are in decent form and have pulled away from the struggling pack, although Southampton need this win a little bit more than us, being two points closer to the relegation zone than ourselves and knowing one last win would all but secure survival.
Our final four fixtures are generous – seeing us play three bottom half sides with Brighton and Fulham still to come after the Saints – but this one won’t be easy.
Hassenhuttl has got as many wins (8) in his 18 games in charge as Southampton’s last two managers racked up across 52 games (Mark Hughes 3/22, Mauricio Pellegrino 5/30), with their recent win over high-flying Wolves and unfortunate defeat at Old Trafford showing how we mustn’t take them lightly.
That said, we’ve just come off the back of a huge win at Leicester and can finally play without fear at St James’ Park on a day that could yet mark Rafa Benitez’s penultimate home game on Tyneside.
Let’s just hope we can channel that in the right way, however, with the survival-securing win last Friday creating the risk of some having one eye on their summer holidays.
To keep in short and sweet, I can’t see him changing the side that got all three points in a brilliant all round display at Leicester last week – and rightly so.
There’ll be calls for Yedlin and Shelvey to return, but do Manquillo and Ki really deserve dropping?
Diame must start TWO of our last four remaining games if he’s to trigger a new one-year contract extension. If Rafa wants to keep him and the Senegalese midfielder wants to stay then you’d think he’ll be given the game time to avoid losing him on a free, but that situation seems very much up in the air as things stand.
The likes of Muto, Atsu and Kenedy will also be hoping for game time in the final few weeks now our safety is practically secured, but I can’t see Rafa changing this *too* much.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1) – Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles, Dummett – Manquillo, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie – Perez, Almiron – Rondon
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side:
Nathan Redmond – The winger looks like a player revitalised under Hassenhuttl, scorig 7 goals and making 5 in his 17 games under the new boss. He could be the big one to watch in this one.
Danny Ings – He struggles with injury, but when he’s fit (and he is now) he’s a very handy player. Has great technique and surprisingly good link up play and vision for a striker.
James Ward-Prowse – Aside from Kevin De Bruyne and Cristian Eriksen, I’d back this guy above anyone else when it comes to set piece delivery. He’s also found some form in front of goal recently
Yan Valery – The young full-back looks good going forward but a little erratic defensively. Miguel Almrion could get some joy here if he’s in the mood.
Predicted Southampton XI – (5-3-2) – Gunn – Valery, Yoshida, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand – Ward-Prowse, Sims, Hojbjerg – Ings, Redmond.
Tip 1 – Redmond anytime scorer or Valery to get booked seems a decent shout if you’re fancying a flutter or use any of the best USA online casinos.
Both Lejeune and Longstaff will miss out once again following season-ending knee injuries but, aside from that, it doesn’t seem like Rafa has any fresh injury concerns.
For the visitors, £18m centre-back Jannik Vestergaard looks set to miss out, but Mario Lemina and Yan Valery may be fit enough to start.
Alex McCarthy, Matt Targett and Charlie Austin could are all touch and go after struggling to train this week with minor knocks.
It could be Rafa’s penultimate game at St James’ Park and a win could take us up to 12th if results go our way, so there’s no excuses for the players to be on their holidays after last week’s big win.
Southampton have enjoyed a huge upturn in form since Hassenhuttl came in so will be no pushovers and much better in attack than they were under Mark Hughes, so that combined with their slightly more pressing need for a win may see them get something here.
Heart says another big win – and potentially Benitez’s last at St James’ Park – but my head’s fancying a high scoring draw.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-2 Southampton
Howay the lads!
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Tip 2 – In a game where both teams will be looking to win and finally make sure of survival, a punt on us to win but both teams to score could be a wise call for anyone looking at online pokies Australia.
Saints have failed to score in just two games in 2019 (all competitions) which makes it pretty likely they’ll hit the back of the net again on Saturday but with our impressive home record, we should still have enough about us to see off Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side.