Newcastle United drew 0-0 again with Crystal Palace on Saturday night for the third time this season to record their third goalless draw in four games and sixth consecutive clean sheet in The Premier League and Eddie Howe's side were once again frustrated not to come away with all three points despite a dominant display.
Newcastle looked rock solid at the back as ever and made history for manager Eddie Howe, who became the first Englishman in the 21st century to go unbeaten in The Premier League for 15 straight games which is also a club record for The Magpies:
Yet a failure to breach a stubborn Eagles defence for the third time this season - excepting the wrongly disallowed goal in the St James' Park tie that The Premier League have admitted was an incorrect VAR intervention to chalk it off - meant Newcastle couldn't put the icing on the cake to win the match yet nevertheless stay in 3rd position in the top flight table after Arsenal beat Man United 3-2 on Sunday.
Next up its The Carabao Cup on Tuesday night on the South Coast in The Magpies' first Semi-Final in a Cup since 2005, the first game in a two-legged affair that will take the winners to Wembley to face the winners of Nottingham Forest against Man United.
Newcastle ran out 4-1 winners against Southampton when the sides met in November and it proved to be manager Ralph Hassnhuttl's last game in charge of The Saints:
who appointed Nathan Jones as their new Head Coach and although he hasn't arrested the club's poor Premier League form, has certainly got them ticking in the Cups and they knocked out Man City in the Quarter-Final:
It was a result that made people sit up and take notice of Welsh manager Jones, who has masterminded three Cup wins in both English domestic Cups defeating Lincoln and Man City in The Carabao Cup and Crystal Palace within 90 minutes in The FA Cup, a feat Newcastle haven't managed this season in three attempts although did knock The Eagles out of The Carabao Cup on penalties earlier in the campaign.
With just one solitary victory against Everton in five Premier League games, Jones hasn't found winning top flight games as easy and arguably a Newcastle side who are hungrier for Carabao Cup success than multiple recent winners Man City could prove The Saints' stiffest challenge yet for a team still rooted to the bottom of the table after a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa on Saturday:
One perennial ray of hope for The Saints is star midfielder and free-kick maestro James Ward-Prowse, who has scored the second highest number of direct free-kicks in Europe's Top 5 Leagues since he became a Premier League player in 2012 second only to Lionel Messi and at 14.4% he has the highest success rate from free-kicks taken so Newcastle will have to be on their guard not to give free-kicks away in dangerous areas:
Since the return of The Premier League following the Qatar World Cup, Ward-Prowse has been a man on fire continuing his long-held role as The Saints' talisman so stopping him will go a long way to stopping Southampton although The Magpies will have to be on guard against Geordie striker Adam Armstrong, who scored the winner against Crystal Palace forcing a goalkeeping error with a trademark quick press, and would love to impress against his hometown club if selected ahead of Seydou Mara:
Newcastle also have an attacking selection dilemma having drawn a blank again away from home and number 9 Callum Wilson not looking at his sharpest following his trip to Qatar with the England team & with record signing Alexander Isak returning to fitness and scoring the winning goal against Fulham, the Swede has a strong claim to a starting role with Eddie Howe viewing his primarily as a striker despite an ability to play out wide:
The Sweden international created the most xG on the pitch against Crystal Palace with some excellent dribbles and a header that on another day he might have scored and his all-round game and sharpness suggests its time for him to step up & start again as he did against Liverpool and Bournemouth scoring in both games before his injury:
Isak starting would give Wilson, who has been recovering from an illness which probably explains him looking not quite his usual self on the pitch of late, a chance to rest with the second leg of the Semi-Final against Southampton not until a week later as Newcastle have a match free weekend due to the exit from The FA Cup at Sheff Wed.
Allan Saint-Maximin is another Newcastle player who is knocking on the door for a start and the Frenchman has tasted goalscoring success for The Magpies at St Mary's in The Premier League scoring the winner on the South Coast in the 2021/22 season:
..and with Newcastle looking slightly predictable due to fielding the same admittedly very strong line-up in most games recently, freshening the team up with the Saint on the left of Isak in the middle in The Cup could hold the key to victory against The Saints.
Thankfully, there's VAR for the first time in The Carabao Cup this season so the match should be played on the Premier League-level quality field of officiating and scrutiny although VAR André Marriner has proven a dodgy thorn in The Magpies side on numerous occasions when refereeing Newcastle in the past.
Eddie Howe in his presser was relishing a Semi-Final but insisted Newcastle must get a step or two further in the competition before it is a success:
And the Newcastle manager paid tribute to his hard-working squad for achieving 15 games unbeaten in The Premier League, that new club record, but revealed so high are standards at the club now that an away point at Palace felt like a defeat:
Again, Howe spoke of record striker Alexander Isak and seemed to urge caution about expecting too much of him too soon following his recovery from injury but it would still be a surprise if he doesn't make the starting line-up soon for Newcastle:
Prediction - Newcastle 2 Southampton 0