The Saints will certainly be a tough team to beat, are in seventh position in the Premier League, 12 places and 22 points higher than Newcastle. In the build up to the match, we have a look at what the manager has to say about his side.
We’ll start with some updates on the squad, Karl Darlow is set to continue as the first choice goalkeeper with Tim Krul and Rob Elliot both confirmed to be out for the season.
Benitez may have the luxury Paul Dummett as the left-back could return to make it into the side. With Massadio Haidara and Kevin Mbabu still both out with a knee and a thigh injury respectively, and cover left-back Jack Colback serving a two-match ban, Dummett’s presence will be a huge relief.
The future of Rafa
Benitez taking over a club that was threatened with relegation was quite a surprise to most fans of the Premier League. There is no debating the historical size of Newcastle United, but their current predicament could mean they will be spending next season in the Championship, a situation that does not seem appealing to a manager who has won multiple titles across Europe including La Liga and the Champions League.
Yet the Spaniard has confirmed that he wants to stay longer at St James’ Park, hinting that even a drop down to the second year of English football might not deter him from a second year in charge.
When asked about the speculation linking him with the Spain job, the former Chelsea and Liverpool manager had this to say; “I am Newcastle manager and I want to be next year. I want to be here for a while.”
Benitez has given the fans some words of hope, although a lot of fans have accepted the threat of the drop zone, the manager is adamant that his side will fight until the last match.
With 21 points still to play for and the Magpies currently six points away from Norwich City in 17th, it is way too early to count Newcastle out of a survival fight.
“We have to concentrate just on this game, get three points against Southampton if we can. If we cannot win we have to keep fighting right until the end. That is our message to the fans. We will not give up.”
On the side’s mentality
There is no doubting the ability of Benitez as a manager and the Newcastle squad certainly has ability in its ranks but the results have been poor and now they face relegation and the manager has pointed out the mentality of the team.
“Every session the players are giving everything. We try to improve a little bit every day to be ready for the next challenge.”
With Aleksander Mitrovic getting back on the score sheet and the performances of the attacking players certainly getting better, Benitez’s impact can be seen already.