I didn’t expect to say this a few weeks ago – even if results have always been steady this season – but win at Southampton and we’ll be spending Friday night in the top four!
After a solid yet uninspiring point at Wolves, we came away deserved winners in a 2-1 victory over Everton last Sunday, sending us into this trip to Southampton with decent momentum in our final game before the dreaded international break.
Southampton are in even better form and have been brilliant to watch recently, picking up 13 points from a possible 15 in their last five, however they come into this game with a few big injury setbacks, with top scorer and star man Danny Ings’ absence the big one.
After recently facing an Everton side without several key players, we’ll be hoping to take advantage against another strong yet depleted side, with Callum Wilson and Karl Darlow also having points to prove after failing to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
That said, we’ll need to show much more adventure in the attacking third than we did at Wolves if we want to come away with more than a point here!
Steve Bruce gave a positive injury update in his Thursday morning press conference, confirming that there’s no new injury issues ahead of our trip to the South Coast.
With that in mind, Isaac Hayden is fit enough to start this time around and the dead leg Allan Saint-Maximin suffered against Everton must be fine.
Jonjo Shelvey remains out after a hernia operation with Martin Dubravka, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle also long-term absentees.
For the hosts, star man Danny Ings has been ruled out alongside Ryan Bertrand, while first-choice centre-back Jan Bednarek and Ibrahima Diallo are also doubts.
Predicted line up
Predicted NUFC XI (5-3-1-1): Darlow – Murphy, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – S Longstaff, Hendrick, Almiron – ASM – Wilson.
He’s rarely done it this season, changing systems five times in seven games so far this season, however I can see Bruce sticking with this 5-3-1-1 formation and us being unchanged from the side that beat Everton 2-1 last weekened.
After all, we defended well against the Toffees, competed well in midfield and also moved the ball forward well from time to time, with Longstaff looking sharper than we’ve seen for several months and Almiron’s energy playing a big part in springing counter attacks for Saint-Maximin and Wilson to join.
One change I would be tempted to make is Hayden in for Hendrick, however.
The Irishman put in a solid display against Everton, however I expect this high-energy and high-pressing Southampton side to throw more at us this time around and feel Hayden is the most mobile midfield spoiler we have.
Fraser will be pushing for a start after an impressive cameo last Sunday, however he may have to settle for another impact role here.
Here’s a few ones to watch in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints side:
Che Adams – The Saints striker has often been in Danny Ings’ shadow, however he’s been in very good form over the past few weeks and will need to step up in their star man’s absence. A handful who works hard and has two goals and as many assists in his last three league outings.
James Ward-Prowse – I’m not sure there’s a player in the Premier League who’s more devastating from dead ball situations. He rattled two incredible free-kicks into the top corner in their 4-3 win at Villa last weekend and also bagged an assist for their opener that day with a brilliant cross. It’s vital we don’t give away cheap free kicks or needless corners.
Jannik Vestergaard – The 6ft 6′ centre-back has two goals in his last three games, being their big threat in the box from Ward-Prowse’s devastating deliveries. He’s also banked three clean sheets in their last five, but does lack pace and could be got at if we can get Wilson, ASM or Almiron running at him. If there was a list of superstitious athletes, he’d be on it after backing himself to keep on scoring, so he’s a player to watch out for in both boxes on Friday night!
Theo Walcott – A friend of mine is a big Saints fan and thinks he’s looked revitalised after returning to his boyhood club this summer. He’s also being tipped to play up top in Ings’ absence, so he’ll be one to watch.
Predicted Southampton XI: (4-4-2): McCarthy – Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Vokins – Armstrong, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond – Walcott, Adams.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I come into this one with a very similar feeling to the Everton game – if we were playing their full strength side I’d fear the worst as they’re in great form, however I fancy us to frustrate what will be a weakened Southampton side.
As stated earlier in the article, I feel we’ll have to give them something to think about on the counter if we’re to get a good result – as they still have the quality to pick us off if we’re sitting ducks – however I think our pace in attack could cause them problems.
With them blunted by Ings’ absence and Wilson arriving with a point to prove, I fancy us to come away with another decent point on the road in what should be a more open game than the one we saw at Molineux.
Prediction: Southampton 2-2 Newcastle