Southampton.

Alan Pardew’s side have lost to West Ham and Swansea in recent weeks as they struggle to reach the lofty heights of 2011/12.

The last time a Newcastle side lost more than two games in a row in an English Premier League season, they lost four against the likes of Hull City and Blackburn in 2008.

And they are set to do battle with promoted Southampton for the first time since club legend Alan Shearer netted his 400th career goal in Newcastle’s 2-1 victory at St James’ Park in 2005.

Despite their recent form, Newcastle are unbeaten in the last eight games against Southampton in all competitions.

Demba Ba has led the way with an impressive eight Premier League goals this season but he has struggled for support with strike partner Papiss Cisse scoring once thus far.

It does not get any easier for Newcastle at St Mary’s Stadium against a side fresh off a confidence-boosting victory.

Southampton heaped further pressure on cellar-dwellers Queens Park Rangers as they claimed a crucial 3-1 win at Loftus Road last week. The win not only moved the club within a point of safety, but eased the strain on manager Nigel Adkins.

Towering forward Rickie Lambert also ended his six-game scoreless run by opening the scoring against QPR. Lambert has shouldered much of the load this season and with five goals so far, he is expected to do more of the same on Sunday.

But something that will give travelling Newcastle hope is Southampton’s defensive frailties that have prevented the club from recording a clean sheet this season.

Having already lost Yohan Cobaye until the New Year, Newcastle are expected to be without Hatem Ben Arfa and Cisse after both picked up knocks during Thursday’s Europa League draw against Maritimo. However, they are set to welcome back captain Fabricio Coloccini from a three-game suspension.

Southampton goes into the game at close to full strength with no fresh injury worries.

Prediction: Southampton 2 – 2 Newcastle

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