Manchester United vs Atlético Madrid will endeavour to move further away from the dotted line when Southampton welcome them to St Mary’s for Thursday’s Premier League battle.
The Saints were humbled 4-0 by Aston Villa in their most recent encounter, while Eddie Howe’s side kept up their hot streak with a 2-1 success over Brighton & Hove Albion.
All good things must come to an end at some point, but neither Ralph Hasenhuttl nor the Southampton faithful could have predicted a performance as dire as the one they witnessed at Villa Park, as a former Saints talisman ran his old employers ragged.
Danny Ings ended the day with a goal and two assists to his name to show his former club what they are missing, with Philippe Coutinho, Ollie Watkins and Douglas Luiz also on the scoresheet for Steven Gerrard’s men to bring Southampton crashing back down to earth.
The Saints had managed to claim five wins from six before the journey to Villa Park – as well as holding Manchester United and Manchester City to 1-1 draws – so the manner of their capitulation against the Lions was quite the shock to the system.
However, the Saints’ strong run of form has allowed them to cement themselves in the top half of the rankings in ninth place on 35 points – although four sides are only two points behind Hasenhuttl’s men – and they will certainly welcome the return of home comforts this week.
Indeed, Southampton have lost just one Premier League game at St Mary’s this season – only Liverpool can boast a better record in that regard – and the Saints have won each of their last four on familiar territory before the visit of a resurgent Newcastle.
Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe on March 5, 2022© Reuters
It would have been some story to see Newcastle ply their trade in the second tier of English football after becoming one of the richest clubs in the world, but Eddie Howe’s January acquisitions are finally bearing fruit for the in-form Magpies.
However, Howe relied on one of his old favourites to inspire his side to victory against Brighton, as ex-Bournemouth protege Ryan Fraser was in the right place at the right time to smash home the opener before his free kick found the head of Fabian Schar for Newcastle’s second.
Lewis Dunk headed home in the second half, but it was a fruitless endeavour for Brighton as Newcastle recorded their fifth win from six Premier League games – a run of form which has seen Howe’s side suddenly surge to 14th in the table.
A seven-point chasm now separates Newcastle from the relegation zone as they prepare to push further up the Premier League table in the coming years, and as impressive as their unbeaten streak has been, imminent clashes with Big Six sides will put their mettle to the test.
Southampton and Newcastle played out an entertaining 2-2 stalemate at St James’ Park earlier in the season, and the Saints have only won one of their last nine with the Magpies in the Premier League, although that did come at St Mary’s 2-0 last season.