The Toon Army are feeling nervous in the Transfer Tavern ahead of their season-defining clash with Southampton at St. James’ Park this afternoon.
Rafa Benitez is held in an extremely high regard by the Newcastle supporters propping up our bar in the tavern, but his reputation would reach new heights if he can mastermind his side to victory over a hapless Southampton side tomorrow. Newcastle are unbeaten in 4 games at home, but only 1 of those matches ended in 3 points for the relegation-threatened side.
At this stage in the season, the value of three points cannot be expressed highly enough for a side fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table, especially when victory arrives at the expense of a fellow relegation rival. Newcastle’s six-pointer clash with Southampton looks destined to be a nervy affair characterised by a distinct struggle by either side to produce genuine moments of quality, however, the unlikely return of Jonjo Shelvey (valued at £9 million by Transfermarkt) could serve to disprove that widely-held pre-match feeling.
Shelvey was recently ruled out of The Magpies trip to Anfield last weekend due to a knee injury which he collected against Bournemouth, and despite the initial prognosis which suggested he was set for a lengthy lay-off, The Daily Mail reported that he returned to training on Monday and could still feature against Southampton tomorrow. Although it’s unlikely that Shelvey will feature, the supporters should desperately hope he will be involved tomorrow, as Newcastle will struggle to create chances without his creative influence in midfield.
The 26-year-old midfielder is the only player within Benitez’s squad who has the ability to dictate proceedings and carve open opposition defences, so his presence will be sorely missed against Southampton if he fails to recover from injury this weekend. There is still plenty of football to be played this season, but a victory over the travelling Saints would help Newcastle to take a giant step towards safety, and Shelvey’s fitness could prove to be a deciding factor on a crucial day for the club tomorrow afternoon.