Southampton will be presented with the perfect opportunity to register their second win of the campaign when they host a struggling Newcastle United side at St. Mary’s Stadium this weekend. The Saints are 16th in the table with six points on the board while the Magpies are languishing at the bottom of the table, being one of only two clubs yet to secure a single victory this campaign.
Here are three key battles that could decide the outcome of this game.
Danny Ings vs Jamaal Lascelles
Danny Ings will be Southampton’s weapon-in-chief when the Saints look to breach the Newcastle defence tomorrow. The English forward, on loan from Liverpool, has settled into life at Southampton, having scored three goals in eight matches.
His presence in the final third has boosted Southampton’s attacking productivity and he will no doubt play a key role in this fixture, especially against a disciplined Newcastle backline. And that’s where Jamaal Lascelles comes in.
The Newcastle captain is a pillar at the back for the Magpies, with his performances driving the Newcastle backline week in week out. Thus, he will be tasked with the responsibility of keeping out the dangerous Ings as Rafael Benitez hopes for back to back clean sheets this weekend.
However, he will be needing support from his defensive partner Federico Fernandez, especially in dealing with the two-man offensive formation of Southampton. But, it will certainly be Lascelles, whose performance could dictate his side’s fate in this important fixture.
Nathan Redmond vs DeAndre Yedlin
While Danny Ings will be facing a stern test of getting past Jamaal Lascelles, it will be interesting to see how DeAndre Yedlin fares against the wide-threat of Nathan Redmond.
The Southampton winger has attempted the second most number of dribbles in the league this season with his tally of 42 dribbles bettered only by the mercurial Eden Hazard. In addition, Redmond has been key in the final third, leading the team in terms of key passes provided(11).
However, he will be coming up against a pacy and athletic fullback in the form DeAndre Yedlin, who has somewhat impressed this season despite his team’s dismal performances so far.
The US international has already mustered 12 interceptions, 19 clearances as well as provided six key passes, which are certainly no mean feat for a fullback, especially for a team that has struggled this season.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg vs Jonjo Shelvey
Southampton boss Mark Hughes is unlikely to risk star player Mario Lemina this weekend, which will leave Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg with a huge burden of leading the Saints against a strong Newcastle midfield.
Hojbjerg has emerged as a better option than Oriol Romeu in midfield, thanks to his intelligent positioning coupled with his remarkable work-rate. However, he is likely to spend most of his time dealing with the threat of Jonjo Shelvey, in what will arguably become the most important personal duel in this contest.
Should the Danish midfielder manage to prevent Shelvey from dominating the midfield, it would allow Southampton to become much more expressive in the final third while conversely, failing to keep a check on Shelvey could potentially spell trouble for the Saints.
Stat courtesy: Whoscored