Newcastle to take massive step towards the final
Southampton and Newcastle United lock horns in the first leg of their semi-final in the EFL Cup at St. Mary's on Tuesday night. The hosts currently sit bottom of the Premier League on goal difference, but their exploits in this competition have provided some respite from their relegation struggles. Meanwhile, the visitors seem to only lack a ruthless instinct in front of goal in their quest to get into the top four, but they would dearly love to have one foot in the final sewn up before the return fixture, too. Read our preview here:
One thing that can be said about Nathan Jones' spell in charge of the Saints since his appointment just before the World Cup is that he at least instilled some belief in the players that they can win matches, having done so in four of the nine he's overseen to date. Unfortunately, every other result has been a defeat and has come in the league. Their best route to success here will be to keep things tight at the back and strangle the game in midfield, not allowing their opponents to get up a head of steam and dictate the tempo. Out wide, Brazilian defender Lyanco will deputise on the right for Tino Livramento. The 25 year old was superb in the previous round against red hot favourites Manchester City, completing shutting down Jack Grealish. A similar level of performance will be required against the more industrious Joelinton. Elsewhere, when they do have the ball, they will play for free-kicks within shooting distance - James Ward-Prowse remains the deadliest set piece taker in the country.
Hide and Isak
Matt Targett is the only absentee from Eddie Howe's squad who would on paper start this fixture. Dan Burn has carved out a niche for himself at left-back, which is timely as on current form, he'd struggle to break up the partnership of Sven Botman and Fabian Schär in the centre. The Toon Army have the best defensive record in the league by some distance, both in terms of clean sheets accrued by Nick Pope and the defensive unit as a collective, and in goals conceded (only 11). Their adversaries are far from prolific scorers, so the focus will be on being more clinical themselves when opportunities come up. Striker Alexander Isak has had a rough time with injuries since his big money move from Real Sociedad at the end of the summer transfer window, but has shown he's more than capable of leading the line in those brief snatches when he's been fit, scoring three times in all competitions in the equivalent of four full matches.
bet365 have odds of 7.50 for Newcastle to win 2-0, which would give Southampton a mountain to climb in the second leg.