Southampton - Newcastle United: The pre-match low-down

The Saints host strugglers Newcastle at St Mary's on Saturday afternoon and both sides will be desperate for the three points, but for different reasons.

Southampton - Newcastle United: The pre-match low-down
(Picture: Getty Images)

Southampton welcome relegation-threatened Newcastle United to St Mary's on Saturday as Ronald Koeman’s side seek to keep their Europa League bid alive.

Rafael Benitez is still looking for his first win since he took the reigns at St James’ Park and the Spaniard will be hopeful his side can find three points to maintain their slim hopes of staying in the Premier League.

Recent form

The Saints' issue this season has been a lack of consistency and their last six games tells the story of their campaign as they’ve won two, drawn one and lost three.

The south coast club were arguably unlucky in their last outing as they visited league leaders, Leicester City, and some dubious refereeing decisions resulted in a 1-0 loss.

The Magpies on the other hand have lost five of their last six with their only point coming in a tight 1-1 draw against fierce rivals, Sunderland, last month.

The key men

Graziano Pelle has had a remarkable return to form, scoring both goals in his side's 2-1 win over Stoke and also scoring a stunning strike against Liverpool at the end of March.

Newcastle are in desperate need of a hero and Aleksandar Mitrovic bagged a brace last time out against fellow strugglers Norwich City, but it unfortunately wasn’t enough to save them from a 3-2 defeat. The Magpies will be hoping the young Serbian can produce again on Saturday afternoon.

The key battle

Southampton edged the last match 2-1 on the opening day, with Wijnaldum scoring on his debut. (Picture: Getty)
Southampton edged the last match 2-1 on the opening day, with Wijnaldum scoring on his debut. (Picture: Getty)

One battle on the pitch that we can be sure to expect is Saints defender Virgil Van Dijk against Mitrovic.

The Dutch centre-back has been in sparkling form since arriving on the south coast and isn’t afraid to get stuck in. Mitrovic has an infamous temper, making their duel an intriguing one - particularly given his potential goal threat.

How they set up last week

Koeman adopted the more defensive 3-5-2 formation last week in order to try and foil Leicester’s attacking approach. However, playing at home against a struggling team will mean fans will expect a more attacking set-up, with a 4-2-3-1 very likely.

Benitez is still trying to find the winning formula and last time out he set up with a 4-2-3-1. It is key to their success for Dutchman, Georginio Wijnaldum to get on the ball and so the Spanish manager will want him in a central role.

The effect on the table

A Saints win would see them go within just three points of fifth place Manchester United who face a tricky outing to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Newcastle remain in desperate need of three points and, if Sunderland lose, they would leapfrog their north-east rivals with a win and sit three points off safety.