Premier League preview: Newcastle United v Southampton
By Football News
Newcastle and Southampton will be desperate to put more distance between themselves and the relegation zone when they meet on Sunday.
Both sides are on 27 points - just four clear of 18th-placed Reading - with 12 matches left in the season, making their clash on the weekend even more vital.
Southampton (15th) are just ahead of Newcastle (16th) on the Premier League table due to their superior goal difference of -9 compared to Newcastle's -12.
But the recent form lines of both sides will ensure they will head into this encounter high on confidence.
The hosts have lost just one of their past five matches in all competitions.
Besides their 2-1 defeat away to Tottenham in their last league outing on February 9, Newcastle have claimed victories over heavyweights Chelsea, Aston Villa and Ukrainian outfit FC Metalist Kharkiv in the Europa League.
The St James' Park outfit also drew with Metalist 0-0 in the first leg of their second-round tie.
Southampton also find themselves in the midst of a purple patch having lost just one of their past six league outings.
A notable victory inside that run includes defeat of champions Manchester City a fortnight ago.
Mauricio Pochettino's men have also recorded draws against European contenders Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge) and Everton as well as relegation-threatened Wigan.
The only match that they have not picked up points from since January 12 was their 2-1 loss to league leaders Manchester United, though the promoted side put in an impressive display at Old Trafford despite the defeat.
And Southampton will be further boosted by the knowledge that Newcastle's recent form at home has been less than impressive with five losses in their past 10 matches at the venue for Sunday's clash.
Furthermore, the men from St Mary's have been fairly successful road warriors of late, losing just two of their past eight matches away from home.
Conversely, Newcastle will be keen to avenge their 2-0 loss to Southampton in November and restore their recent domination over Sunday's opponents.
Prior to that match, Newcastle had not lost to Southampton in their previous seven meetings - including five victories.
Newcastle could regain influential forward Hatem Ben Arfa for the clash - the Frenchman has been absent since December with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, a selection headache is looming for Pochettino, who could have as many as six attacking options fit and available for the encounter.
Skipper Adam Lallana (knee), Gaston Ramirez (thigh) and Guly do Prado (knee) have all recovered from their injuries and will put pressure on Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Jason Puncheon to retain their spots in the side.