Soccer-Southampton bid to storm fortress Newcastle


By Ossian Shine

SOUTHAMPTON, England, Dec 13 (Reuters) - 'Fortress' is a term much overused in the hyperbolic language of English Premier League football, but as far as Southampton are concerned, Newcastle's St James's Park comes as close as anything to fulfilling that forboding definition.

When the two sides meet in an eagerly anticipated top- flight clash on Saturday, Southampton's newly capped England striker Jay Rodriguez insists his Saints team mates will be powered by confidence.

But the record books suggest they are likely to need more than self-belief if they are to return south with points from a ground at which they have won just four times in 41 attempts since 1923.

Recent clashes have not been kind to the visitors either - Newcastle having won nine of the last 10 meetings in all competitions.

The league table suggests a tight affair will be contested from 1500 GMT in the north-east, as just three points separate Newcastle in seventh place and Southampton in eighth.

Recent form, however, polarises these two sides from opposite ends of the country rather more clearly.

Since the beginning of November Newcastle have won five of six league matches, scooping up 15 of 18 points on offer, including a 1-0 win at Manchester United last weekend.

Over the same period Southampton have won a single league match, losing three and drawing two to drop 13 of the 18 points on offer.


The Saints stopped the rot with a creditable 1-1 draw at home to free-scoring Manchester City last weekend, and will hope to start afresh having soaked up defeats at the hands of Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa.

"It was nice to end a run of three defeats because I think the performances in the games that we lost have been good and we'd just been a bit unlucky with the result. We've still got the belief and it's showing in the games that we do deserve to compete with the best," Rodriguez said on Friday.

"We've kept our way in the how we play and the belief we have is there to go out in the way that we play which is the most important thing for us because we believe that will get us results.

"The table reflects how well you're doing, so fair play to Newcastle, they're there on credit which is what we're looking at and what we're looking forward to and hopefully we can get the three points from up there."

Southampton have a lengthy injury list with Artur Boruc, Kelvin Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Guly do Prado, Danny Fox and Victor Wanyama all ruled out.

Newcastle will be missing the suspended Yohan Cabaye but otherwise are at full strength for a match which has a little added piquancy for Magpies manager and former Saints boss Alan Pardew.

"I felt an injustice when I lost my job at Southampton, but I am looking forward to seeing some of my former players, who have done absolutely brilliantly," Pardew said.

"It's a difficult match but one we are really looking forward to on the back of last weekend's result. These are two hard-working teams who will both be set-up to attack.

"Southampton are very solid when they attack, we are similar and it could make for a cracking game." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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