Premier League | St Mary's | Sat 29 Mar | 3pm
The battle for mid-table supremacy (aka the most pointless game of the season).
Once in a while a game comes along which leaves you asking: what’s the point? This fight-for-nothing-in-particular is one of those. Neither side will qualify for Europe, both are safe from relegation. Simply put: there’s nothing to play for.
- Spurs 3-2 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 4-2 Norwich (Prem)
- Palace 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- So'ton 0-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- West Ham 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-3 Everton (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Hull 1-4 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
That’s one way of looking at it. The other way is that these sides are locked in a ferocious two-team league: and in the battle to finish top of mid-table (perhaps the least thrilling accolade in football history) this one is for all the marbles. However you decide to view it, here are some facts and stuff.
Southampton go into this match off the back of a rather galling defeat away to Spurs. Two-nil up against Tim Sherwood’s side, they conceded midfield possession in the second half and the game was gone.
Perhaps more worryingly for Mauricio Pochettino, his side have now conceded 11 goals in their last five games. Admittedly, this run of matches included two wins, but it points to a weakness at the heart of his team. A good thing, then, that attacking trio Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert look capable of troubling any defence.
For Newcastle, a ropey home win against Crystal Palace was followed by a shellacking from Everton. A couple of things in the Magpies’ favour going into this game: manager Alan Pardew will be back in the ground, if not in the dugout (his stadium ban is over, his touchline ban continues) and they won’t be facing Ross Barkley.
Their meek 3-0 surrender to Everton smacks of a side already thinking about their summer holidays. One ray of hope is that in their win over Palace, they managed to score a goal for the first time in the absence of Loic Remy. But then if ever a fact damned with faint praise, that’s surely it. With the French forward still out, they’ll have to repeat these goalscoring heroics, because it’s unlikely they’ll keep a clean sheet.
Southampton’s biggest miss could be Rodriguez, with the England striker sidelined by a rather vague-sounding leg injury.
In midfield, they’ll still be without the battling qualities of Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama. Tim Krul is out for Newcastle after damaging his knee. Mathieu Debuchy (dodgy groin) and Remy (calf) are out too.
Key battle: Jack Cork vs Cheick Tiote
With both sides leaking three goals in defeat in their last game, the winner of this contest could be determined by midfield belligerence. Against Spurs, Cork won all except 1 of his aerial duels, breaking up play high up the pitch. The trouble is, most of those green marks you can see on screen were made early-ish in the match. As the Tottenham midfield took a grip on the game, his influence waned, to Southampton’s cost.
While Tiote won all 5 of his tackles against Everton, he wasn’t always in the right position to break up play. For Barkley’s solo run, Tiote (and Vurnon Anita) were bypassed too easily. And we all know what happened next. Positional discipline will be the order of the day, especially against Lallana’s ghostly wanderings.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'castle 1-1 So'ton (Prem, Dec 13)
- N'castle 4-2 So'ton (Prem, Feb 13)
- So'ton 2-0 N'castle (Prem, Nov 12)
- N'castle 1-0 So'ton (FAC, Feb 06)
- N'castle 2-1 So'ton (Prem, Jan 05)
This week, Pardew publicly thanked Newcastle owner Mike Ashley for his backing following that thing that happened against Hull. You know. He might be wishing he’d been afforded similar backing in the transfer market in the last year, with his side drifting to an end-of-season anti-climax the moment Yohan Cabaye left for PSG. Guarding against aimless drift will be on the mind of Pochettino, too. In his favour, however, is a core of players vying for a place in the England squad, a tasty carrot that should help maintain standards until May.
Facts and figures
- Southampton have kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 10 home games with 8 of the matches having at least 3 goals.
- Southampton have scored first in 6 of their last 7 home matches against middle-third teams.
- Newcastle have drawn only 1 of their last 16 away matches.
- 5 of Newcastle’s 7 trips to middle-third teams this season have had at least 3 goals.
Best Bet: Southampton HT/ FT @ 2.40
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3-2. Saints win an entertaining if ultimately meaningless match.