Premier League Preview and Prediction: Newcastle United vs Southampton

Newcastle United welcome Southampton to St James’ Park on Saturday evening as the Toon Army look to make amends for their 4-0 thrashing in the reverse fixture at St Mary’s back in September.

Newcastle have slowly slipped down to 10th position in the table since they had dragged themselves up to 5th after they beat QPR in late November in a run of five straight wins.

Since then, a run of nine games with five defeats, two draws and just two wins, as well as the departure of manager Alan Pardew, has left them in a strange period of transition that can’t be allowed to go on for too long otherwise they’ll start looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone.

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The Magpies are currently eight points above 18th placed Hull City, so it isn’t a desperate situation just yet, but they will still be keen to continue picking up points in order to maintain their distance.

Newcastle United’s home record: Played 10 – Won 5 – Drawn 3 – Lost 2

As for Southampton, they will be bubbling with confidence after their magnificent 1-0 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend which has lifted them to third in the table.

It extends their unbeaten run in the Premier League to five games despite a tricky run of fixtures which has seen them face Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United consecutively.

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They also continued their good domestic form in midweek with a narrow FA Cup third round replay win over Ipswich Town at Portman Road thanks to a goal from Shane Long.

The Saints are certainly staking a huge claim to show that they’re capable of qualifying for Champions League football this season and if people weren’t taking them seriously before, they most definitely will be now.

Southampton’s away record: Played 10 – Won 5 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

With the best defence in the division and the fourth highest scoring attack, Southampton will be tipped as favourites for the win, but Newcastle is always a tough place to go, so it makes for a fascinating contest.

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Newcastle will be without numerous players through injury, suspension and African Cup of Nations duty, namely Papiss Demba Cisse and Cheick Tiote while Southampton are without Toby Alderweireld (hamstring), Sadio Mane (calf), Morgan Schneiderlin (thigh) and Maya Yoshida (international duty).

Newcastle United’s last five: L/L/W/D/L

Southampton’s last five: W/W/D/W/W

Key stat: Southampton haven’t lost a Premier League game in which they’ve scored the first goal this season.

Key player: Dušan Tadić – The Serbian has been a revelation this season and Newcastle must stop his creativity if they’re to take anything from the game.

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Score prediction: Newcastle United 1 – 1 Southampton

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Southampton

Manchester United welcome the high-flying Southampton to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon for arguably the game of the weekend in the Premier League.

If you had said in August that this fixture will play a crucial part in who qualifies for Champions League football come the end of the season, many Saints fans would have laughed at you. But that is very much the situation that presents itself in this game.

United haven’t set the world alight with their performances but Louis Van Gaal won’t mind that in the slightest as they are still getting results, which is something they used to do so well under the great Sir Alex Ferguson in years gone by.

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They are now unbeaten in their last ten games in the Premier League and have suffered just one league defeat in the last 15.

Manchester United’s home record: Played 10 – Won 8 – Drawn 1 – Lost 1

Talking of Sir Alex Ferguson, Southampton have a great manager themselves in the shape of Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman has been a revelation for the South Coast side and any fears surrounding the club at the start of the season following the departure of Mauricio Pochettino have well and truly been washed away.

Since a minor blip that saw them go on a four-game losing streak, Southampton have picked things up again by going four without a loss, winning three and drawing one.

Southampton’s away record: Played 9 – Won 4 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

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This clash promises to be an entertaining affair and is a tough one to call as so much depends on how both sides approach the game.

Southampton boast the best defence in the Premier League this season, and you’d expect them to be a tough nut to crack for Man United. And for all United’s firepower going forward, they still haven’t managed to outscore the Saints this season – both sides have scored 34 goals.

The hosts will be without Ashley Young who has a hamstring injury, while Southampton are without Maya Yoshida (international duty) and the impressive Sadio Mane (calf).

Manchester United’s last five: W/D/W/D/D

Southampton’s last five: L/W/W/D/W

Key stat: Manchester United are undefeated in their last nine Premier League home games (Won 8, Drawn 1).

Key player: Fraser Forster – the Southampton goalkeeper has been one of this season’s outstanding performers and is likely to be called upon to save his team once again.

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Score prediction: Manchester United 2 – 1 Southampton

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Arsenal vs Stoke City

Stoke City travel to the Emirates to take on Arsenal on Sunday afternoon with the Gunners seeking revenge after they fell victim to a 3-2 loss in the reverse fixture this season.

The Potters are coming off the back of a three game unbeaten run that includes an away win at Everton, a home win against West Brom and an important draw against Manchester United on New Years Day.

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Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their below par performance last time out as they fell to Southampton in a 2-0 loss at St Mary’s, and need to win to keep tabs on the top four.

Arsenal’s home record: Played 9 – Won 5 – Drawn 3 – Lost 1

Much of the focus will be on the home side in this encounter as the Gunners are expected to have German international Mesut Ozil available once again and he could potentially start on Sunday.

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Arsene Wenger’s has fielded an unbelievable twelve different combinations in defence this season. An unsettled backline being one of the reasons why Arsenal have struggled thus far.

And Mark Hughes will hope that Bojan can wreak havoc against the Arsenal defence as he did at the Britannia earlier in the season.

Stoke City’s away record: Played 10 – Won 3 – Drawn 3 – Lost 4

Stoke will be without Mame Biram Diouf however as the Senegal striker is away at the African Cup of Nations.

There is hope for this Arsenal side though, as they have won their last three at home in Premier League and enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Hull in front of their home fans last weekend in the FA Cup.

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Their recent form against their opponents hasn’t been good enough however, as they have lost the last two meetings with Stoke. Could this be a third straight win against Arsenal for Mark Hughes’s men?

Arsenal’s last five:W/D/W/W/L

Stoke City’s last five: D/L/W/W/D

Key Stat: Arsenal are undefeated in 26 of their last 27 Premier League games at the Emirates.

Key Player: Alexis Sanchez – The Chile international has been a sensation since his move to the Emirates last summer and most of Arsenal’s attacking play will go through him.

Score Prediction: Arsenal 2 – 1 Stoke City

2014 MLS Season Review: Real Salt Lake

Western Conference Final Position: 3rd

Western Conference Playoffs: Semi-Final

Review

Real Salt Lake‘s capitulation in what turned out to be their last game of the season when they lost 5-0 at LA Galaxy was both inexcusable and inexplicable, but one poor game should not overshadow what was – on the whole – a brilliant season.

They made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season and also enjoyed great form at home winning 11 games and suffering just one defeat. Only LA Galaxy and FC Dallas fared better on home soil in the 2014 MLS season.

Best Moment

The 12-game unbeaten run at the beginning of the season set the tone for a successful campaign and it shouldn’t be underestimated as to how hard it is to maintain that kind of form.

Worst Moment

An obvious choice, but the 5-0 defeat against LA Galaxy in the playoff semi-final will be a painful final memory for 2014 and one they’ll want to forget as soon as possible.

Player of the Year

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Javier Morales was a joy to watch and was truly inspirational for his side. Picking up nine goals and 12 assists from midfield makes it hard to look any further, although Kyle Beckerman deserves a special mention for another great season at the heart of the team.

Biggest Win

Real Salt Lake 5-1 Colorado Rapids (September 20 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Regular season: Seattle Sounders 4-0 Real Salt Lake (May 31 2014)

Including playoffs: LA Galaxy 5-0 Real Salt Lake (November 9 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

It’s hard to pinpoint any areas that specifically need improving for a side that are so consistent, but one disappointment for RSL would be their form on the road. They only managed to pick up four wins on their travels and if they could improve that number next season and maintain their strong home form, then they would be serious contenders for the Supporters’ Shield title in 2015.