Southampton need three points to keep their lingering European ambitions alive against a Newcastle side who are in desperate need of a victory if they are to retain any hope of preserving their Premier League status.
The Saints’ defeat at Leicester last weekend left them six points adrift of the final European spot having played a game more than the teams immediately above them, and there is a sense that Ronald Koeman’s side may have to settle for a repeat of last season’s upper mid-table finish.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster faces his former club without a clean sheet in his last six games, but the giant stopper has generally impressed since his return from injury and is likely to be England’s number two in France this summer in Jack Butland’s absence.
If the hosts were to pick any team to get back to winning ways against at St. Mary’s, it would likely be Newcastle; since the Saints returned to the Premier League in 2012 they have won all three of these fixtures by an aggregate score of 10-0.
Rafa Benitez remains in search of his first win as Newcastle boss after last weekend’s gut-wrenching defeat at Norwich in which his side fought back twice but conceded a stoppage-time goal to come away with nothing.
That result leaves the Magpies six points off safety, and although they do have a game in hand – against Manchester City – the managerial change looks like a case of being too little, too late for the Toon Army.
It has been a truly miserable season for the fans that have followed the club on the road; they have picked up just seven points from a possible 48, scored nine times and conceded 36. Their goal difference of -27 effectively puts them another point further away from survival, and the Geordie faithful are facing up to their second relegation in seven years.
Koeman has Shane Long available again after he missed the defeat to Leicester City last Saturday, but Steven Davis is ruled out after picking up an ankle injury in the same game.
For the visitors, Aleksandar Mitrovic is expected to start after scoring two goals from substitutes’ bench at Carrow Road, but Jack Colback is out through suspension, while left-backs Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara are still sidelined.
League Position: Southampton – 7th (47 pts); Newcastle – 19th (25 pts)
Last Meeting: Newcastle 2-2 Southampton (August 9, 2015)
Form: Southampton – LLDWWL; Newcastle – LLLLDL
Key Men: Southampton – Graziano Pelle; Newcastle – Aleksandar Mitrovic
Shoot Says: Southampton 2-0 Newcastle