Newcastle United are back in action away to Southampton in the Carabao Cup semi-final this evening, with the Magpies hoping to move one step closer towards ending their lengthy barren run without silverware.
For all the importance of potentially finishing in the top four come the end of the season, manager Eddie Howe has previously insisted that it would be a “dream” to secure a major honour for the club, with such a triumph set to be just reward for what has been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes over the last 12 months or so.
The Tynesiders head into this first-leg encounter at St Mary’s following what was another frustrating stalemate away to Crystal Palace at the weekend, having now recorded a goalless draw in three of their last four Premier League games.
The solitary win in that run of games came at home to Fulham courtesy of a late winner from club-record signing, Alexander Isak, with the Sweden international having been gradually eased back into the action following his frustrating injury woes prior to the World Cup break.
While Howe will likely be fearful of risking losing the 23-year-old once again, it may well be time for the former Real Sociedad starlet to be handed the chance to impress from the start, with goals clearly having been in short supply of late.
Despite his limited involvement so far this term, the one-time Borussia Dortmund “monster” – as described by journalist Chuck Booth – has illustrated just why the northeast side were so keen to secure his signature this summer, having scored three goals in his five top-flight outings to date.
While the 6 foot 4 powerhouse was not able to add to his tally off the bench at Selhurst Park, the £120k-per-week gem did certainly make an impact in the closing stages, having guided a header straight into the arms of opposition goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita.
With the departure of Chris Wood to Nottingham Forest having limited Howe’s attacking options, it may well be wise to thrust Isak into the fray from the start in order to allow fellow forward Callum Wilson the chance of rest.
Alternatively, there could also be a benefit in playing the pair together in attack against Nathan Jones’ men, with Wilson having notably teed up his strike partner to help clinch victory against the Cottagers just over a week ago.
Whatever forward line the Newcastle boss does decide to deploy, it would seemingly be an astute move to have Isak at the forefront, with unleashing the rarely-seen asset potentially able to help terrorise the south coast side.