How Newcastle must line up when they face Southampton on Saturday
Newcastle United will look to significantly boost their Premier League survival chances when they host fellow strugglers Southampton in a potentially season-defining clash for both clubs at St James’ Park on Saturday.
The Magpies missed the chance to increase the gap between them and the relegation zone when they surrendered a two-goal lead in the last 10 minutes to draw 2-2 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium last month, and they followed that up with a 2-0 defeat against a free-scoring Liverpool side at Anfield last weekend.
That result left the Tyneside outfit two points above the bottom three, and they remain in real danger of suffering an immediate return to the Championship as they lie just two points above both 18th-placed Crystal Palace and 19th-placed Stoke City, with their fans believing this is the first of two fixtures that will decide their fate.
Their opponents this weekend are one point above those two clubs and one point adrift of Rafa Benitez’s side, and the Spaniard will certainly take some solace from the fact that the south coast outfit have only won two of their 13 top flight matches on the road during the current campaign.
Newcastle do have the third worst record on their own turf this term though, and Benitez will know that they need to improve that and start picking up wins if they are to stay up, with a draw at home to Saints not really good enough.
The 57-year-old Toon boss went with an unfamiliar 5-4-1 system at Anfield last weekend, and the former Liverpool chief will likely revert to one of his more popular formations for this fixture.
Benitez made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Bournemouth for the game against Liverpool last time out, and he will be considering making some more against Saints in what is such an important clash.
Here is how Newcastle must line up against Southampton on Saturday, ahead of Martin Dubravka in goal…