Newcastle United-Southampton Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Southampton host Newcastle United at St Mary's on Saturday in a meeting between the two clubs firmly in mid-table in the Premier League.

With the top six a full 10 points further up the table and the bottom 11 teams seven points behind, the only incentive for Southampton (12-9-10) and Newcastle (14-4-13) in the remainder of the season will be to finish above each other and maybe catch Manchester United for seventh.

The points were shared when these teams met at St James' Park in December. Yoan Gouffran opened the scoring for the Magpies in the first half, but Jay Rodriguez equalised midway through the second half.

"It was a really, really hard game and I thought Newcastle were very good, but I think we definitely deserved a point out of that one," said Saints striker Rickie Lambert. "It will be a tough game against Newcastle this weekend, it's always tough because they have strong players that can finish, and under the manager they know how to win games. (Alan) Pardew will know the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, so we know what to expect.

"We aimed for fourth this season, and people laughed at us, but they didn't laugh at us straight t away when we were second, they waited until we dropped off a bit. Our desire is to get into the top four and that's the way the club has been run in the past four years. We definitely believe that we can finish above teams like Newcastle."

Newcastle have enjoyed a disjointed season, losing key midfielder Yohan Cabaye midway through the campaign and then seeing Pardew banned for head-butting a player. Despite the setbacks, the manager is proud of how his team have matched the performances of Saturday's more exalted hosts.

"Everybody is saying Southampton have had a fantastic season, but we are still above them and we want to stay there," said Pardew, a former Saints manager. "I don't know about a battle for eighth but it is a case of when you are around each other you want to say you are better.

"We have had nowhere near the funding that Southampton have got, so in some ways you could argue that we are batting against the tide here. I will be making sure the team's winning mentality doesn't drop off and that we are structurally right for what is a difficult game."

Southampton have injury doubts over Rodriguez (leg), Nathaniel Clyne (groin), Guly do Prado (knee), Morgan Scheiderlin (groin), Victor Wanyama (calf) and Kelvin Davis (knock). Newcastle have concerns over the fitness of Shola Ameobi (ankle), Davide Santon (illness) and Gabriel Obertan (knee), while Mathieu Debuchy (groin) and Ryan Taylor (knee) are out.

Papiss Cisse's late winner against Crystal Palace ended an unwanted and revealing record over Newcastle's attacking reliance on Loic Remy. Prior to the weekend's last-gasp win, the Magpies had not scored a single goal in the seven matches the French striker has missed this season. With Remy involved, Newcastle have bagged 37 in 23 matches and picked up 42 of their 46 points. This weekend he is expected to miss out with a calf problem.

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