Two teams probably just a couple of points away from securing their Premier League status for another season scrap it out when Newcastle host Southampton at St James’ Park on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on BT Sport).
With Fulham and Huddersfield now mathematically relegated, there is only one more spot in the bottom three to be avoided. Cardiff are the current occupants, on 31 points, followed by Brighton on 33, Southampton on 36 points from a game less, and Newcastle on 38.
With seven points separating them from the bottom three, Newcastle might even be safe if they fail to pick up any more points between now and the end of the campaign. The likelihood of a Cardiff side who have so far accumulated less than a point per match on average suddenly claiming seven or more from their final four matches is pretty low and this is how the bookies’ relegation odds for the EPL look.
That will not be something that Rafael Benitez and his players will necessarily want to rely on. An accessible looking run-in, with matches away to Brighton and Fulham still to come, should give them the opportunity to finish a solid second half of the season on a high and perhaps even come close to equalling or bettering last season’s haul of 44 points.
Such a relatively comfortable conclusion to the campaign seemed unlikely after Newcastle went winless through their first 10 matches of the season. At that admittedly still nascent stage, they were joint bottom of the table, with just three points to their name. Three consecutive victories thereafter helped ease some of their concerns, but it is only since the turn of the year that they have really found form capable of lifting them from trouble.
Newcastle’s 1-0 win away to Leicester City last Friday, secured with a first-half goal from Ayoze Perez, was their sixth in 14 matches in 2019. Winter signing Miguel Almirón has provided them with a bit more pace and directness in attack, even though that hasn’t been concretely reflected in terms of goals or assists. The defensive unit has also tightened up a bit. Benitez’s side are 10th in the league in terms of results this calendar year.
Saturday’s opponents, Southampton, are one of the nine teams with a better record in that time, having taking a league eighth-best 21 points in 2019. Ralph Hasenhuttl has transformed a team who were joint bottom when he arrived to one whose fate is now in their own hands following a series of results more befitting an upper mid-table side.
If Newcastle already probably have enough points on the board to be safe, Southampton likely only need two or three more from their remaining five matches. Even if Cardiff string together a surprisingly strong run of results, it is difficult to also see fourth-bottom Brighton, coming off of four consecutive defeats and with three of the top six still to play, also doing so.
Hasenhuttl has improved Southampton at both ends of the pitch, taking the attack from a 0.87 goals per match average to a far more healthy 1.44, and the defence from a decidedly leaky 1.93 conceded to a more manageable 1.39. To have done so with an unchanged squad, by drawing better performances from existing players, speaks highly of his work and bodes well for next season if he is adequately backed in the summer transfer market.
Nathan Redmond is one of those who has benefited most from Hasenhuttl’s work. He was the decisive player in last weekend’s 3-1 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, scoring two first-half goals before Shane Long confirmed the result with twenty minutes to go. All five goals and three assists Redmond has provided this season have come since Hasenhuttl took charge in early December.
Even though Newcastle have won five of their last six league matches at St James’ Park, Southampton’s away form has also been pretty good recently, with three wins, two draws and two defeats in their last seven on their travels. Indeed, it has been good enough to think that a Saints side on the up might just be capable of all but sealing their top-flight continuation by taking all three points on Saturday.
Our Preview’s Newcastle vs Saints Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Southampton to win @ best odds of 9/4 with BetVictor.