Saint Hughes to leave his mark on Rafa
Rightly or wrongly, Mark Hughes and Rafa Benitez are both among the early contenders to be the first managerial casualty of the season after severely underwhelming starts to the season. The victor of this clash will breathe a sigh of relief but whoever loses can expect the pressure on them to be cranked up quite considerably.
Having looked doomed for a large part of last season, The Saints managed to preserve their Premier League status for a sixth consecutive year, prompting the Southampton board to back the man responsible for keeping them afloat, Mark Hughes, with a three year contract.
But any air of positivity expected to emerge from St Mary’s on the back of this has turned into a big gloomy cloud which has showed no signs of clearing and looks set to hang about for a large part of this campaign, as it did last. Just one win and six points from nine games is the type of form which tends to spell only one thing and that’s relegation.
Despite not scoring for a fourth successive match at Bournemouth though, I’m expecting Southampton to lift the gloom and relieve some of the pressure on their under-fire boss with victory against beleaguered opposition in Newcastle.
Hughes referred to their stalemate at the Vitality as a statement. And you can see what he meant by this with his side having had the better of the chances which, on another day, would’ve been put away. The man of the match awarded to Asmir Begovic suggests how much the better side they were, while a shot rate bettered only by Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham proves the team is showing plenty of willing in attack.
Is Rafa really under pressure? The bookies say so but it’s hard to tell considering the ongoing issue that revolves around Mike Ashley not putting his hand in his pocket to help keep Newcastle competitive.
Confidence within the team is as low as their position
Ultimately though, the performance of the team that takes to the field is the responsibility of the man in the dugout and so far Newcastle have been woeful. Bottom of the division with just two points from their opening nine matches means they are just one of two clubs across England's four professional leagues without a top flight victory to their name - the other being Huddersfield.
They’re far from stinking the place out; the tactical experience Benitez possesses has seen The Magpies stay in games and perform admirably in spells as we witnessed at Old Trafford just a couple of weeks back. But confidence within the team is as low as their position and it’s hard to see the negativity evaporate unless matters off the field are resolved.
Their winless run has to end at some point and in fairness, their only two points have come on the road. This is far from a happy hunting ground for the Geordies though and I’m not expecting them to put this right this weekend.
Newcastle's last five visits to St Mary’s:
- 2017/18 – D 2-2
- 2015/16 – L 1-3
- 2014/15 – L 0-4
- 2013/14 – L 0-4
- 2012/13 – L 0-2
The form of both won’t see this offer up a classic and I’m not expecting many goals to be shared but I do anticipate the three points staying the in the South. What this’ll mean for the visiting manager is anybody’s guess.
I reckon sizeable odds of 11/10 from bet365 will come in slightly as we head towards the weekend so I’m taking advantage while I can.