Newcastle v Southampton
Live on Sky Sports 1
John Carver remains one of the frontrunners to be handed the Newcastle job on a permanent basis, and given the way that they have performed under his stewardship so far I'd suggest that is an indication of the problems Mike Ashley is facing attracting a big/proven name to the club.
The Geordies have now conceded eight goals in their last four games and have won just one and lost six of their last eight matches in all competitions. Carver has overseen two defeats, against Chelsea and Leicester, and a 3-3 home draw with Burnley where they were thrice pegged back.
Pouring more salt on the wounds was Moussa Sissoko's comments in midweek that he is keen to leave Tyneside to join a bigger club and that a move to Arsenal would be his dream, while top scorer Papiss Cisse and midfielder Chieck Tiote are both now away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
On the plus side, Tim Krul returned to the starting XI last weekend and appeared to come through the 90 minutes unscathed.
A run of five consecutive defeats prior to Christmas appeared to signal the bursting of Southampton's bubble, but the response has been extremely impressive. Ronald Koeman's men are now unbeaten in seven and have climbed back above Manchester United and into third place - now priced at odds of 2.56/4 for a top four finish.
Top scorer Graziano Pele has now not scored in his last six matches but others, namely Dusan Tadic, have stepped into the breach to score important goals and, more importantly, the defence has remained watertight. Saints have now kept four clean sheets in their last seven and have conceded a total of just three goals in that same period.
Wednesday's 1-0 FA Cup win at Ipswich was tainted slightly by the hamstring injury that Victor Wanyama picked up just before half-time and adds to a growing injury list that already includes Jay Rodriguez, Toby Alderweireld and Morgan Schneiderlin. Tadic picked up a knock in the game at Portman Road but is expected to return, but Maya Yoshida and Emmanuel Mayuka are both now at the African Cup of Nations.
Newcastle may have lost just one of the last nine Premier League games at St James' Park, and they may be unbeaten in their last 10 league home games against Southampton, but I have no interest in backing them here at odds of 3.45. Newcastle will find it difficult enough to cope without their top scorer for the next few weeks, and up against the strongest defence in the division Cisse's absence will be even more apparent.
Odds of 2.427/5 on an away win are plenty big enough to tempt me to advise getting involved in backing one of the league's form teams to take three points against a managerless Newcastle that have lost 75% of their last eight games.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Each of Southampton's last five matches have had no more than two goals, with both of their previous two away games ending in 1-0 victories. While Opta inform us that Ronald Koeman's side have allowed their opponents fewer shots on target against them than any other team in the top flight this season (58).
Throw the absence of Papiss Cisse into the mix and the 1.84/5 about there being fewer than 2.5 goals looks to be a no-brainer.
Combine the two selections above to get a meaty 4.84/1 on Southampton winning and fewer than 2.5 goals being scored in the Match Odds and Over/Under 2.5 goals market.
2pts Back Southampton to win @ 2.427/5
1pt Back Southampton to win & Under 2.5 goals @ 4.84/1