Eddie Howe’s high-flying Newcastle United will look to take another step closer to Champions League qualification when they welcome rock-bottom Southampton to St. James’ Park in the Premier League on Sunday.

Having tightened their grip on third position with a cruising victory at Everton on Thursday, Newcastle United will return to home turf when they take on Southampton at St. James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.

Eddie Howe’s men come into this clash in the driving seat in the race to secure Champions League football for next season, currently scanning the rest of the Premier League from the dizzying heights of third.

The Magpies are on a roll at the moment, with five wins from their last six league outings. A 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa was quickly erased from memory with a thumping 6-1 win over fellow top-four hopefuls Tottenham the following week. A 4-1 win at Goodison Park against a struggling Everton side helped further improve their grasp on a top-four berth.

With Manchester United and Tottenham sharing the spoils on Thursday, the Tynesiders now hold a healthy eight-point cushion over fifth place, with that one-game advantage still intact. The Premier League’s Champions League spots now seem all but sewn up.

The former AFC Bournemouth boss is deserving of all the accolades coming his way. And despite spending big in a few key positions, most of their squad is made up of those he inherited, which makes him a firm favourite to win the Manager of the Season award should Manchester City fail to win the treble this season.

Newcastle will mathematically qualify for the Champions League next season with 74 points, meaning they will only need to earn 12 of their remaining 18 available to get over the line. But with many of their rivals playing each other in the run-in, 71 points seems like a much fairer benchmark, given that is the summit mark Liverpool can reach should they win all six of their remaining games.

In any case, while the Toons are the favourites to achieve the historic feat, it would be silly to count the eggs just yet. Therefore, Howe’s men will look to keep racking up points while everything else sorts itself out.

Southampton, meanwhile, look dead and buried in the relegation zone following their painful 1-0 defeat against Bournemouth last time out, leaving them six points adrift of the safety zone with only five games remaining. They now face an uphill battle in their fight against relegation. And only a miracle can save their top-flight status as they travel to Newcastle.

Newcastle and Southampton have already met on three occasions this season: once in the league and twice in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup. Eddie Howe’s side came out on top in all three games, with a dominant combined scoreline of 7-2 and will fancy themselves once again heading into this Sunday’s fixture.

Team News and Tactics

Newcastle United

Eddie Howe has ruled out the availability of Allan Saint-Maximin for Newcastle United’s Premier League encounter against Southampton on Sunday afternoon. Sean Longstaff and Joelinton both sustained knocks in Thursday’s victory at Everton. And the pair will be assessed in the lead-up to Sunday’s game.

Howe is likely to keep the changes to a minimum. But expect some healthy rotation, with the Newcastle United boss set to line his side up in his usual 4-3-3 formation. Nick Pope is in no danger of losing his starting spot in goal for the Magpies.

Fabian Schar and Sven Botman ought to pair up at the heart of the Newcastle defence, flanked by Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn at right-back and left-back, respectively, with the latter coming in to replace Matt Targett, who was handed a rare start last time out.

Bruno Guimaraes will be the anchorman in the midfield and will shift between defensive midfielder and playmaker roles with Sean Longstaff depending on how the game unravels.

Other midfielders, Joe Willock and Joelinton, will have the licence to maraud forward and offer support to the attacking players, switching between left-midfielder, and left-winger roles during the match to make it more dynamic. Jacob Murphy, who has now scored three goals in his last two appearances, could win his place back ahead of Miguel Almiron.

Alexander Isak is likely to regain his starting striker spot, with Callum Wilson on rotation duty this time around. The Swedish striker bagged a brace against Spurs, while Wilson came off the bench to score a tap-in in the same games.

Roles were reversed last time out, and the Englishman scored two goals while Isak arrived as a substitute to deliver a mesmerising assist. With both strikers fit and firing, Howe has a healthy dilemma on his hands as the Magpies look to thrash despondent Saints in front of home support.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Longstaff, Guimaraes, Willock; Murphy, Isak, Joelinton

Newcastle United XI vs Southampton


Southampton are set to be without the services of the injured Mohammed Salisu, Romain Perraud, and Juan Larios at the weekend, with Valentino Livramento and Armel Bella-Kotchap also doubtful. Defenders Perraud and Bella-Kotchap will be monitored before the game, with the latter having a good chance to be included in the playing XI if fully fit.

A huge worry ahead of the weekend was the early exit of skipper James Ward-Prowse during the Bournemouth defeat due to illness. The English midfielder will also be assessed late before the Saints make the trip to Newcastle.

Ruben Selles could potentially change to a back five here in a backs-against-the-wall situation. Gavin Bazunu pulled off a number of excellent saves in the draw at Arsenal and the subsequent defeat to Bournemouth. He will be needed once again to even stand a chance here.

Lyanco, Jan Bednarek, and Armel Bella-Kotchap are expected to form the back-three at St. James’ Park. And wing-backs Kyle Walker-Peters and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will start together on their preferred sides.

When fit, Romeo Lavia and Ward-Prowse are probably the first two names on the team sheet. The duo will anchor the midfield together, with a fluid three in front of them. Attacking midfielder Carlos Alcaraz will be in his typical floating forward role and will add tenacity with his aggressive press.

Selles may take a pressing-first approach to match Newcastle’s fast start and win balls high up the pitch to stress the hosts, so he might call on Che Adams and Adam Armstrong to provide the intensity from the off, with in-form Theo Walcott looking to make an impact off the bench.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Bazunu; Maitland-Niles, Lyanco, Bednarek, Bella-Kotchap, Walker-Peters; Lavia, Ward-Prowse, Alcaraz; Adams, Armstrong

Southampton XI vs Newcastle United

Key Stats

  • Eddie Howe’s side have won seven of their previous eight top-flight fixtures, including each of the last two, scoring a total of ten goals in wins against Tottenham and Everton.
  • Newcastle United have lost only one of their last 22 Premier League games against teams starting the matchday in the relegation zone.
  • Southampton have won only one of their last 17 games away from home against Newcastle United in the Premier League.
  • Ruben Selles’s side are winless in eight Premier League matches, losing five of those fixtures.
  • Newcastle have scored 23 goals in their last seven Premier League matches.

Player to Watch

Alexander Isak

Despite not starting the game and his competition, Wilson, scoring a wonderful brace, it was Alexander Isak who grabbed all the headlines, as he also did against Tottenham in the previous game.

He produced an absolutely breathtaking Thierry Henry-esque run to set up Jacob Murphy’s goal at Goodison Park. The outrageous assist — of which he was robbed by the Premier League — left the whole footballing world in awe.

The Swede initially picked up the ball somewhere near the halfway line and dribbled past not one, not two, but three Everton defenders, beating Michael Keane thrice, times while keeping his balance along the touchline and dinking for Murphy to tap home at the back post.

The assist defied logic as he took 21 touches in that single run, showcasing the outstanding technical ability that prompted Newcastle United to pay a club-record fee to prise him away from Real Sociedad last summer.

Already into double digits in the Premier League despite missing a good chunk of the season due to injury layoffs, Isak will be rubbing his hands at the prospect of adding to his season tally here.


Newcastle United 5-0 Southampton

The Magpies have shown they have the capability to do any number on most Premier League outfits, especially at St. James Park. Goals have been flying in at a mad rate lately, with competition for places getting the best out of their talent pool. Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson have been lethal for the Magpies and will be chomping at the bit to face a shaky Southampton backline.

Howe would want his men to really put the Saints to the sword. The visitors look destined for the drop to the Championship, and any faint optimism would have waned after a disappointing relegation six-pointer defeat to Bournemouth.

Therefore, another high-scoring victory looks to be on the cards for Howe’s troops, who will be ravenous for goals in front of their home crowd as they look to punch their much-deserved Champions League ticket in style in the upcoming run-in.

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