Preview: Southampton vs. Newcastle United

Newcastle United's English manager Alan Pardew gestures during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Stoke City at at St James' Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, northeast England on December 26, 2013
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Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Southampton and Newcastle, who are separated by only one point and one place in the table, at St Mary's Stadium.

Southampton and Newcastle United meet at St Mary's Stadium this weekend with both teams in with a chance of finishing above the reigning Premier League champions.

The two clubs have been vying for eighth and ninth positions in the table for most of the season, but could leapfrog Manchester United with a strong run-in.

With the Red Devils slipping up in recent weeks, the gap from them to the ninth-placed Saints, who are a point and a place below Newcastle, has reduced to only six points with seven games remaining.

Magpies manager Alan Pardew, who admitted earlier in the campaign that finishing higher than United would be a target for his players, will be allowed to attend following his three-game stadium ban.

The 52-year-old, who watched his side lose comprehensively at home to Everton on Tuesday at a local hotel, is still suspended from the touchline for a further four matches, though.

Tim Krul is not available for the Tyneside outfit, with the Dutch goalkeeper having been ruled out of their next "two or three games" because of a knee injury, so Rob Elliot will deputise in between the posts.

Davide Santon should shake off a nasty case of tonsillitis to return for the first time this month, having previously been sidelined by a knee problem, but his fellow full-back Mathieu Debuchy remains out.

Thirteen-goal top goalscorer Loic Remy and Sammy Ameobi will be absent from the forward line and therefore Luuk de Jong and Papiss Cisse may be paired together up front once again.

Cisse has scored just two Premier League goals from open play in the last year, while De Jong has yet to net since joining on loan in January, but received a vote of confidence from Pardew this week.

Southampton saw their slim hopes of European qualification all but ended by Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, with Nathaniel Clyne's error helping Spurs come from two goals down to win in London.

The former Crystal Palace man was hooked at half time and replaced by Calum Chambers, who could be restored from the off this Saturday in defence, where Maya Yoshida will not play again this season.

The Japanese centre-back has suffered a knee injury, and Steven Davis may also miss the match on the South Coast after picking up a knock. Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez will need fitness tests, with Gaston Ramirez on standby to fill in if either is deemed unavailable to start.

Recent form

Southampton: LWWLLL

Newcastle: LWLWWL

Possible starting lineups

Southampton: Boruc; Chambers, Fonte, Lovren; Shaw; Cork, Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin; Ramirez, Lallana, Lambert

Newcastle: Elliot; Santon, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Sissoko, Tiote, Anita, Gouffran, De Jong, Cisse

Sports Mole says: 2-0

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