Can third-placed Southampton keep up form in the second half of the season? Find out as we preview their upcoming clash with Newcastle United at St. James Park and serve up our soccer free picks.
Newcastle United Relying On Home Form
Newcastle United (7-6-8) have lost just two home games at St. James Park this season, but that trend belies what is truly an up-and-down season for Newcastle United and the Toon Army. Sat in tenth place in the Premier League table, the Magpies are far from safe. Only seven points separate them from 17th placed Burnley and a potential drop into second-tier ignominy. Making matters worse is the tailspin they've fallen into since Alan Pardew fled to the nation's capital to take over the managerial opening at Crystal Palace.
Newcastle United are 5-3-2 at home, a run of form that includes scoring just 16 goals and conceding in almost equal measure of 14 goals. They'll look to maintain that modest home form at the expense of high-flying Southampton this weekend but they enter this clash as the home pups. In other words, the soccer odds are stacked heavily against such an outcome: a Newcastle United win is priced at +230 or thereabouts at most online sportsbooks.
Since a season opening 2-0 loss to Manchester City at St. James Park, the Magpies went undefeated in six straight home games (four wins and two draws), a run of form that included signature wins over Liverpool (1-0) and Chelsea (2-1). Immediately after beating top-of-the-table Chelsea, though, the Magpies came crashing back down to earth with a loss to Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby at St. James Park, their fourth successive derby defeat. To follow up a big scalp with a lacklustre loss to Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby was extremely disappointing for Toon fans ahead of the Christmas Break, particularly as it happened in the dying seconds of the game, on a last-gasp 90th minute goal by Adam Johnson that lifted the Black Cats to victory and denied the Magpies a share in the spoils. Since then they are only 1-1-1 in the ensuing three home games.
That's the home case in a nutshell. The outlook is grimmer when considering form both home and away though. Since the 2-1 win over Chelsea, it all went awry for the Magpies, descending into a four-game losing spin – a bit of a hangover from the top scalp perhaps. They were pummelled 4-1 at the Emirates by Arsenal, embarrassed 4-0 by Tottenham in the Capital One League Cup before slipping up against Sunderland. Then capping it all, Manchester United routed the Magpies 3-1 at the Old Trafford.
They did bounce back briefly with a 3-2 win at home to Everton and a 3-3 draw to Burnley on New Year's Eve but, immediately afterwards, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, with a jaunty wave, left the club for Crystal Palace. Although no national outlets reported significant outpouring of grief by ardent Toon fans on the heels of his abrupt departure, left bereft so suddenly the club has lost two on the trot: 1-0 to Leicester and 2-0 to Chelsea. That's a concerning negative trend ahead of their home date with the high-flying Southampton Saints, who are enjoying sublime form at the moment.
Southampton Saints Flying High
Southampton Saints are after recording an historic 1-0 win at the Old Trafford, marking their first win over the Red Devils since 1992. The morale boosting win is a fitting validation of a season that's really picked up since the Christmas Holidays on the back of a seven-game undefeated stretch across all competitions, and it saw them leapfrog Man United in the table.
With a 12-3-6 mark on the season and 39-points, Southampton are up to third place in the table but their position is far from being secure. Catching up to the top tandem of Chelsea (10 points ahead) and Man City (8 points ahead) is a stretch obviously and not the pressing objective. Their main challenge is to hold on to their current position in order to secure a top four finish by season end. Established top four contenders Man United and Arsenal are just two and three points adrift, respectively.
Towards this lofty ambition, a date with Newcastle seems to be rather auspicious. Not only do the Saints enter as the road favourites at +125 to win outright, but also historical trends reveal that Southampton has the recent edge. They haven't lost in the last three meetings, drawing 1-1 at St. James Park and following up with back-to-back 4-0 wins at St. Mary's Stadium, including the first clash of the series this season. What's more, with Newcastle United struggling to score and Southampton defending supremely (they have allowed the fewest goals in the league so far at 15), the Saints might not have to do too much to win this game.
Soccer Betting Verdict
The Saints will look to capitalise on the Magpies' recent woes with a win on the road. Saints need to continue collecting points if they hope to remain in the top four and, frankly, with form, confidence and motivation intact to keep their positive run going it's hard to see the outcome of this game going against them. Take the Saints to win at St. James Park at the tempting price of +125 on your soccer picks.
Soccer Picks: Saints +125