Southampton vs Newcastle United Preview: Saints aim to overcome Magpies to climb into top-half

Southampton and Newcastle United lock horns as Mauricio Pellegrino and Rafa Benitez meet for the Premier League fixture.

Southampton vs Newcastle United Preview: Saints aim to overcome Magpies to climb into top-half
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Southampton will certainly be aiming to revitalise a disappointing start to the Premier League season with the visit of an early impressive outfit in the shape of Newcastle United, who themselves have enjoyed an encouraging opening seven top-flight outings since re-gaining promotion to the first division. 

Rafa Benítez's Magpies may have convincingly began the campaign, however, the club has failed to rack up a victory since they defeated Stoke City almost a month ago; losing to fellow promotion side Brighton & Hove Albion and then a satisfying draw at home to Liverpool prior to the international break. 

As for the Saints, they've struggled to live up to and exceed expectations and will fully be expecting to start a run of positive results on Sunday as Newcastle pay a visit to St. Mary's. Despite a frustrating away defeat to Stoke a fortnight ago, Mauricio Pellegrino's men were able to display a hard-fought performance against Manchester United, but did lose out to the singular goal. 

It will be a personal encounter for the two managers after Pellegrino had worked alongside Benítez at Liverpool and Inter Milan, before the two went their separate ways, so it'll be an absurd affair to see the duo in opposite dugouts. 

Major returns expected for both teams

Neither outfit have a worryingly chaotic injury list but instead this fixture could mark the return of key first-team players for Southampton and Newcastle United. 

Striker Shane Long, who's recently been selected as first-choice forward for the Saints, is likely to be amongst the matchday squad after picking up a hip injury whilst on international with Republic of Ireland - Mauricio Pellegrino has confirmed that the 30 year-old should play a part in Sunday's game. 

If that is the case then the only absentee for Southampton could be defender Matt Targett. Thankfully for the Hampshire-based club their international stars returned fit and ready to feature this weekend.

Rafa Benítez can expect to see Christian Atsu, who signed on a permanent basis in the summer following a successful loan stint in the north-east, back in contention to make the cut on Sunday after recovering from a knock.

This means Masadio Haïdara and Paul Dummett are the only heavily likely outfield players on Tyneside who'll miss the long trek to the south coast for the trip to Southampton. 

Misery for Magpies on last visit to St. Mary's

Newcastle United's drastic attempts to avoid relegation to the Championship in the latter stages of the 2015/16 season were halted when they played the Saints in April of that term, only to see themselves lose out 3-1 and ultimately dig the club into further turmoil before they eventually did endure the drop. 

Two first-half goals from Shane Long and Graziano Pellè were added by a 55th minute ripple in the form of Victor Wanyama, before an Andros Townsend goal for Rafa Benítez's men moments later turned out to be nothing more than a consolation. 

Whilst it meant Southampton formed a fortress atmosphere at St. Mary's having won six of their last eight outings on home turf, Newcastle United fell to 19th position in the Premier League and lost nine successive games on the road, a record that was broken for the first time since 1977. 

Is there necessarily a favourite prior to kick-off?

Southampton's recent form will certainly put them on the back foot on paper, although the fact they welcome Newcastle United at home may stack the odds in their favour but the Magpies have enjoyed a rewarding start to the season. 

The Saints have won just two games this term with half of them being at St. Mary's; the entertaining triumph over West Ham United in the second round of fixtures in August. 

Benitez's squad has accumulated three wins to their name, of which all were back-to-back from August going into September. The Hammers fell victims to Newcastle United before the Tyneside club record victories against Swansea City and Stoke. However, they have suffered a dip in form with one point from a potential six.