As the Premier League title race continues to twist and turn and the battle to avoid relegation encompasses nearly half of the division, another intense contest continues to be overlooked.

On Saturday, Southampton host Newcastle United in what could prove to be the defining moment in this thrilling “race for eighth.”

The appointment of Andre Marriner after last week’s calamitous blunder has threatened to overshadow such a crucial fixture.

Just one point separates the sides, with the Magpies currently holding the upper hand as the race enter its final stages.

On a more realistic note, fans of Newcastle and Southampton will probably appreciate the efforts to inject some late excitement into their respective campaigns.

In this remarkable Premier League season, the Magpies and the Saints are the only clubs in the secure but tedious position of having nothing left to play for but pride.

Fans of Stoke City and Aston Villa would likely attempt to include themselves in this exclusive group, but both require a couple of more victories to make absolutely sure of their Premier League status for next season.

Traditionally at this stage of the season, the form of several mid-table sides begins to tail off as safety in the division is secured. But in this exciting Premier League campaign, nearly every side still has something at stake.

Except for Newcastle and Southampton that is.

The prospect of European football is too distant for the pair to get excited about. Everton occupy the lowest current qualifying spot and hold an eight-point lead over the Magpies and nine over the Saints.

The carrot of finishing above Manchester United remains tangible for the pair. But the cushion between the Red Devils and the duo that has been maintained for some time will now likely remain for the rest of the season.

And having passed the magical forty point mark some time ago, there really isn’t a lot for Newcastle and Southampton to play for except pride and that pivotal eighth position.

In a World Cup year, players at St. James’ Park and St. Mary’s will be mindful of the need to impress their respective national managers.

The French contingent on Tyneside have to catch the eye of Didier Deschamps, while the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw all need to perform to earn a place in Roy Hodgson’s plans.

The World Cup and the demands of the fans should provide the motivation necessary for Newcastle and Southampton to continue competing, even if their place in the division is relatively fixed.

For fans of the Magpies, this season is proving difficult to define.

Having narrowly avoided relegation a year ago, many will simply be delighted that the Magpies are clear of trouble this time around.┬áBut the lack of investment and the sale of Yohan Cabaye have shown the club to to have committed the cardinal sin of “standing still.”

With dismal showings in the domestic cup competitions, most particularly in the home exit to Cardiff City in the FA Cup Third Round, many have been arguing that the season has been over for some time now.

A number of players are anticipated to leave Tyneside in the summer and plans for a summer rebuild have already been said to have begun. With controversial Director of Football Joe Kinnear no longer at the club, manager Alan Pardew will be hoping that the club make the level of investment that has been required for some time now.

In contrast to the situation on Tyneside, the outlook on the South Coast is far more optimistic.

Southampton have been rewarded handsomely for investing heavily in the summer as Mauricio Pochettino’s men have arguably been the surprise package this season.

For a while, the Saints were brushing shoulders with the division’s elite in the Champions League spots. The likes of Lallana and Shaw have seen their reputations blossom in a thoroughly successful campaign.

If these key individuals and Pochettino himself can be kept and the club continues to invest in a similar manner, who knows what Southampton may be capable of achieving next season and beyond.

For now though, the focus for both clubs will be on Saturday’s crunch fixture. Who will ultimately secure that “all important” eight position?

What do you think?

Sign in with Facebook and be
entered for a chance to
Win a pair of Puma evoPOWER football boots

Terms and Conditions

Why?

  • Sign up in 2 seconds
  • Use your FB profile image
  • No need to remember a password
  • See which of your friends would like this

Note: We don't post to your wall

Login

Comment without logging in

You will need to fill this out each time to comment so why not quickly login with Facebook!

*

What do you think?

Sign in with Facebook and be
entered for a chance to
Win a pair of Puma evoPOWER football boots

Terms and Conditions

Why login with Facebook?

  • Sign up in 2 seconds
  • Use your FB profile image
  • No need to remember a password
  • See which of your friends would like this

Note: We don't post to your wall


  • James Smith
    7 months ago

    Sunderland haven’t qualified for Europe. Their place goes to the league.

    Reply