vs Newcastle United Preview: Winner takes all clash in race against relegation
(Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)

Southampton are out for back-to-back home wins in the Premier League for just the second time this season as they prepare to welcome Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United to St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday. 

Saints defeated Aston Villa 2-0 in their last home fixture but lost 3-1 to West Ham United last weekend in a disappointing display.

The Magpies will come into the match on a high after booking their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup as they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 at the Hawthorns, despite a late Baggies flurry.

It was Newcastle that stole the three points last time these two met, with Federico Fernandez's 87th-minute strike completing a 2-1 comeback victory.

Needing a response

Hasenhuttl was damning in his assessment of his players after the defeat at the London Stadium and will be looking for a response against the team immediately below his team on the table.

Saints committed far too many errors in that match and were duly punished, with a more sturdy and pragmatic defensive showing needed.

The back four could be boosted by the return of Yan Valery to the starting line-up, with the young right back in line to complete his comeback from injury and allow James Ward-Prowse to slot back into his natural centre-midfield position.

Despite netting three times in the cup, Newcastle have gone four games without finding the net in the league and have taken just one win from their fixtures since Christmas.

Now just five points above the drop zone, Bruce will be calling on the likes of Miguel Almiron to transition his goalscoring touch from the Hawthorns to St. Mary’s in a big to pull away from the bottom three.

Not safe yet

Even Southampton, who a couple of weeks ago would not have been blamed for harbouring hopes of a late European push, find just seven points between themselves and 18th place.

Inconsistency has plagued Saints this season and means that they remain a long way from safety with 10 games remaining in the campaign.

The rise in form of Danny Ings has been integral to their subsequent ascension in the league standings, and the Englishman should start again after he was replaced by Michael Obafemi in the line-up for the trip to the Hammers.

Shane Long has failed to be a regular contributor alongside Ings, leaving the former Liverpool striker sometimes feeling the weight of goalscoring responsibility falling squarely upon his shoulders.

Coupling this with the fact that Southampton’s 51 goals conceded in the league is worse only than Aston Villa’s 52, Saints have been left frustrated in recent weeks in games they ought to have taken more from.

Making home a fortress

Perhaps most frustrating is the struggle for form on their home turf. Boasting the worst home record in the entire division, this presents itself as a golden opportunity for valuable points in front of their home fans, especially considering the remaining four games at home after this include Arsenal, Manchester City and Sheffield United.

Newcastle have accrued a measly two points from their last six games on the road in the league, dating back to the middle of December. After an early burst in the division, the Magpies have dwindled and are at risk of being hauled into the battle at the bottom of the table.

So the worst attack in the league will face the second-worst defence in the league, a perfect opportunity for Southampton to keep a much needed clean sheet and a big three points as they look to stave off the drop once and for all.