CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 18:  Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle United reacts during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Newcastle United at Cardiff City Stadium on August 18, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

3 Key Battles Which Could Decide the Match Between Southampton & Newcastle on Saturday

Fans of goals and entertainment should probably look elsewhere on Saturday as two of the Premier League's lowest scoring sides meet at St. Mary's Stadium.


This has the feel of a match which could be very important in deciding the direction that these two teams' seasons will take. Newcastle are still without a win while Southampton could join them in the relegation zone if results don't go their way this weekend.


With both teams evenly-matched, these three battles will be key in deciding which side emerges victorious.

3. Mark Hughes vs. Rafa Benitez

Mark Hughes is a manager who inspires little loyalty and there are few Southampton fans who would object to a change of management, with Hughes having served his usual purpose of steadying the ship before letting it sink slowly into the mire once more.


By contrast, Rafa Benitez has been a figure around whom Newcastle fans have rallied in their ongoing campaign against Mike Ashley. Some Magpies fans are starting to turn on the Spaniard after a winless start, but he remains their best chance of escaping their current plight.


Both managers are quite defensively-minded in their approach and both will set up with similar formations: 4-4-2 or some variant of that. But, in what is a must-win game for both teams, they may throw more caution to the wind than usual. Neither manager is a risk-taker, but it may require a gamble to decide this game.

2. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg vs. Jonjo Shelvey

This game could be won or lost in the midfield, where both teams have talented but underperforming players who need to step up their game. In fairness to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, he has improved this season, scoring two goals in seven league appearances after zero in 23 during the last campaign.


Jonjo Shelvey was pushing for an England call-up with his form at the end of last season but he has proven why he was overlooked by Gareth Southgate - he lacks consistency. Zero goals and one assist does not make great reading for a player who is supposed to be one of Newcastle's top creative talents.


Both players are capable of something special on their day. In what will surely be a tight game, and with both sets of strikers misfiring, it may require a bit of midfield magic to tip the balance one way or the other.

1. Danny Ings vs. Jamaal Lascelles

Southampton's best striker against Newcastle's best defender promises to be a game-deciding battle. Danny Ings scored in three of his first four Southampton starts but neither he nor the Saints have scored in over a month. Ings is a good finisher but he needs the service, which he hasn't been getting of late.


As for Jamaal Lascelles, his consistency in defence is possibly the only positive for Newcastle this season. His solidity always keeps the Magpies in the match, with only one of their seven defeats coming by more than a one-goal margin. They just need a goalscorer to take advantage.


The fact that Southampton have a goalscorer and Newcastle don't may prove decisive. Lascelles must keep Ings quiet and hope that his teammates can find their shooting boots at the other end.