Preview: Southampton vs Newcastle United

Two dull weeks of uninspiring International football later, and Southampton are finally back in action.

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Mauricio Pellegrino’s side have had a far from inspiring start to the season, with their only wins of the campaign coming against a ten man West Ham side and Crystal Palace. We’ve choked at the opportunity to punish both Swansea City and Watford at home, so now it’s time to make ammends, as we welcome Newcastle United to St Mary’s tomorrow.

But rather than simply digging out stats and sharing my view on the Magpies, I decided to speak to Adam Keiller – a Newcastle fan and freelance sport journalist – to find out more.

How would you summarise your season so far?

So far I’d say we’re slightly exceeding expectations. Considering we made no marquee signings in the summer, the team is ignoring the pundits predictions of us to struggle. We’re playing for each other, the boss and picking up points where we should be. A draw against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool isn’t half bad either.

Just how adored is Rafa Benetiz?

Benitez is hugely adored up North. He’s brought stability to the team and hope to the fans. He’s leading the club in the right direction and for the first time in a long while, the fans are optimistic about the future thanks to him.

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Who do you expect to be your key man this year?

There’s three or four players I could name here, but it has to be Jamaal Lascelles for me. He is a born leader and recently his performance in games usually dictates the result. If he has a good game we are hard to beat, but when he has a poor performance we tend to struggle. We just hope he can stay fit throughout the season and seeing he has recently signed a new six-year-deal, it’s clear he wants to lead Newcastle to success in the near future.

What would make for a successful season?

Finishing anywhere above 15th would make the fans happy. However, a top half finish would be a huge achievement for us and if we play positively throughout the season, It’s certainly a possibility. Also I think the fans (myself included) would love to see a good domestic cup run. With the big PL teams having their attention elsewhere, I feel we should take the FA cup seriously this season, playing a strong squad every round. A day out at Wembley would be bliss for the Toon army.

How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

In recent years we would crumble defensively after conceding, which usually lead to us letting in four or five. But now we have a defensive minded manager in Benitez, we seem to stay composed and well drilled. However, I would like to see a new left back at the club. We currently have a centre back playing there in Chancel Mbemba. He’s been putting in a shift but in terms of other options, I’m not confident in the replacements we have.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Newcastle player; who’s it going to be?

I’m gonna say Mikel Merino. He is a creative player who can find his way out of a sticky situation. He seems like a good laugh too.

Which Southampton player would you take to join the Magpies?

The way the Saints are playing at the moment I wouldn’t take many, but I’d certainly fancy Virgil Van Dijk at Newcastle. A centre back partnership between him and Lascelles would be very hard to beat. Even the top PL strikers would have a difficult 90 minutes against them.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

We have struggled at St. Mary’s in recent years but seeing as Southampton cannot seem to score at home and after a positive result for us against Liverpool, I’m gonna go for a 0-2 win for the Toon.
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