Southampton vs Newcastle predictions: Saints and Magpies to deliver thriller
- Struggling Southampton have saved their best performances for the cup competitions
- Newcastle are aiming for the top four but will see a clear route to silverware
- Recommended bet: Over 2.5 goals
Southampton and Newcastle both have a rare opportunity to grab silverware in the Carabao Cup but their respective supporters may feel conflicted as to where their priorities should lie.
Whatever the status of English football's secondary cup competition, to be one step from Wembley and not have that trophy your priority would be seen as odd in most circumstances.
However, Newcastle have an era-defining return to the Champions League within their grasp and, perhaps even more importantly, Southampton are in serious danger of ending their 11-season stay in the Premier League.
It will be an interesting test of priorities for both managers.
But with an upcoming FA Cup weekend off for the Magpies after their defeat to Sheffield Wednesday offering Eddie Howe a chance to rest his Newcastle players and Southampton head coach Nathan Jones an opportunity to rotate his squad against Blackpool, both may decide to go for broke in this Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.
Southampton full-backs Juan Larios and Tino Livramento remain out but centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap has an outside chance of returning from a knee problem.
Attacker Theo Walcott and reserve goalkeeper Alex McCarthy each also have a chance of returning from their respective calf and ankle injuries.
Newcastle's injury room has emptied in recent weeks and they have only three confirmed absentees for the trip to the south coast.
Right-back Emil Krafth is out for the season with an ACL injury and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey – who is unavailable anyway with a calf problem – is rumoured to be on his way to Turkish club Besiktas.
Left-back Matt Targett is managing a heel problem and is expected to be out for a few weeks.
Both of Southampton and Newcastle's meetings in 2022 came at St Mary's and both ended in victory for the Magpies – Howe's men romped to a 4-1 win this season and won 2-1 on the south coast in March.
Prior to those two games, Southampton had scored twice at St James' Park in each of their two meetings with Newcastle in 2021 – drawing 2-2 last season and losing 3-2 there in 2020-21.
Those four meetings over the past two years provided 17 goals at an average of 4.25 goals per game.
And Saints come into this match having found some form in the final third, netting twice in three of their last four outings, but remain porous, keeping just one clean sheet in their last 13 outings.
It is always tricky to judge how a manager will prioritise the Carabao Cup and that is certainly the case when Champions League-chasing Newcastle head to relegation-threatened Southampton.
But the fact that an FA Cup weekend comes between the two legs of this tie increases the likelihood that Jones and Howe will go for it in the first game and can then reassess whether they should rotate in the return match, depending on the situation.
Therefore, this game feels like a free hit, with both managers able to send out their first team with the pressure of their respective Premier League missions released.
An inexperienced but talented Saints side have shown how dangerous they can be when the pressure is off, deservedly beating Manchester City 2-0 in the last round of the Carabao Cup and winning 2-1 at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup.
They are also in decent form, winning three of their last four matches, and should give high-flying Newcastle a good test, so adding 'both teams to score' to any Bet Builders looks a decent approach.