Southampton-Newcastle United Preview
Newcastle entertain Southampton at St James' Park on Sunday with new manager Steve McClaren taking charge of the Magpies for the first time in a competitive match.
Former England boss McClaren expects a challenging match against the Saints, who finished seventh in the Premier League last season to earn a Europa League berth.
"Southampton had a good season last season and they got into Europe, but I think that will hinder them as the season goes on," McClaren said. "But does it at the beginning? I don't think so, because they have started their competitive games earlier and they have got into that rhythm.
"I think they were the surprise team of last year, not so much in where they finished but in the way they played the game, so there is no doubt we have got a tough start."
Newcastle preserved their Premier League status with a 2-0 home win against West Ham on the final day of the 2014-15 campaign. Despite keeping the Magpies in the top flight, interim manager John Carver was dismissed and replaced by the experienced McClaren, who narrowly missed promotion leading Derby County last season.
It was McClaren who persuaded the club to offer a contract extension to Fabricio Coloccini, who will be 34 in January. McClaren also confirmed the Argentinian centre-half is to retain the captain's armband at Newcastle.
Southampton tuned up for the start of the English domestic season in midweek with a 2-0 Europa League win at Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem for a comfortable 5-0 aggregate victory.
"We knew we had to perform well and the job was half-done, but we were very professional and managed the game well," midfielder James Ward-Prowse told reporters after the game. "It was just a case of doing things the right way for Sunday.
"There is a lot of competition for places and a lot of rotation with the amount of games we have to play. It's just a case of when you're in the team, do a great job. I think it is very difficult going to St James' Park especially as they have a new manager. We're looking forward to it."
However, the Saints may have to travel to Tyneside without manager Ronald Koeman, who ruptured his Achilles during a training session with his squad.
Newcastle have been busy in the transfer market and may hand debuts to summer signings Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba.
Southampton will be without injured quartet Ryan Bertrand, Gaston Ramirez, Florin Gardos and Fraser Forster.
The Saints did the league double over Newcastle last season, winning 2-1 at St James' Park in January and 4-0 at St. Mary's in September. Graziano Pelle scored twice in the win on the south coast, with Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin also netting.
Eljero Elia scored both goals for the Saints in their victory on Tyneside, with Yoan Gouffran netting for Newcastle.
The Saints have won a club-record three straight top-flight meetings with Newcastle, outscoring the Magpies 10-1 in those games.
Newcastle are just 1-1-4 in their last six Premier League meetings with Southampton. The lone win was a 4-2 victory in February 2013 at St. James' Park.
Southampton's recent success has given them the edge in the all-time Premier League head-to-head, winning 14 times to Newcastle's 11. There were five draws, with Southampton also edging the goals 50-48.
This match is the longest trip in England's top flight, with 281 miles separating the centre circles at St. Mary's and St James' Park.