Newcastle United

Slimani setback: This Newcastle star simply must keep his place against Southampton as a result

Newcastle United supporters have been pretty despondent in the Transfer Tavern this week after seeing their side comfortably beaten 2-0 by top four chasing Liverpool on Saturday, in turn slipping a place closer to the Premier League relegation zone.

Rafa Benitez’s men went into their encounter with the Merseyside giants unbeaten in their previous four league outings, which included their impressive 1-0 success over Manchester United at St James’ Park. Yet the Magpies weren’t able to pull off another famous scalp on Saturday as goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane secured a routine victory for Jurgen Klopp’s side, a result which instigated Newcastle’s fall to 16th place in the Premier League table, although they do remain two points clear of the relegation zone with nine games of the season remaining.

As such, there have been many frustrated Magpies fans in the Tavern in recent times, several of whom are already turning their attentions towards Saturday’s crucial relegation six-pointer against Southampton at St James’ Park.

And they are unlikely to be overly thrilled by the news that striker Islam Slimani is ‘highly unlikely’ to feature against the Saints due to an ongoing thigh problem, thus meaning that the 29-year-old’s Magpies debut will likely have to wait at least another few weeks yet.

Nonetheless, this recent injury setback is likely to do Dwight Gayle’s chances of earning another start the world of good, as the 27-year-old simply has to start against the Saints given his recent efforts leading the line for the Magpies.

Ultimately, it would be harsh to read too much into the striker’s display against Liverpool on Saturday, as leading the line away from home against a top-quality attacking unit is a pretty thankless task. And with the Magpies attempting to thwart the Reds with defensive structure and solidarity, Gayle was never likely to get much of a chance.

Yet in the weeks preceding Saturday’s encounter, the Englishman certainly proved his worth, grabbing the assist for Matt Ritchie’s winner against United back on February 11, before netting the simplest of braces in their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth on February 24.

And while both finishes were comfortable for a striker of his quality, Gayle still had to be in the right place at the right time, and it’s this predatory instinct in the box which makes him a much better option than Joselu on Saturday.

Gayle is a fine finisher and will often hit the target when presented with an opportunity, and against a Saints side who are pretty resolute at the back, these chances aren’t likely to come around regularly – they must be taken when they arise.

And while the 27-year-old didn’t really get into the game against Liverpool last week, that shouldn’t greatly affect his chances of another start against Southampton.

And Slimani’s recent injury setback means that the Englishman simply must retain his starting berth against the Saints in their crucial relegation six-pointer on Saturday.

Newcastle fans… what do you think? Let us know!

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