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Southampton quest for second begins with visit to Newcastle

When Ronald Koeman took the Southampton post, surely he never would have thought that the Saints would be third in January, two points ahead of Manchester United. They currently trail Premier League champions Manchester City by eight, and the sky is the limit with leaders Chelsea only 10 ahead.

Past winners have made up more ground. Saints are 13/10 to beat Newcastle at St James’ Park, and they need to be aiming for a victory. Taking three points at Old Trafford last time out highlighted certain traits in the team; they are hard to break down, work relentlessly and have the quality to create chances and convert them.

If they do have ambition to become serious challengers in the latter half of the season, Koeman has to encourage his squad to look in front of them rather than worry about who is chasing. So far, they seem to have the maturity and composure not to let any pressure get to them.

Dusan Tadic, a summer signing by the Dutch boss, netted the winner last time out in the league, and the clever attacker is 6/1 to break the deadlock. Top scorer Graziano Pelle, meanwhile, is 9/2 to net first and take advantage of a fragile Newcastle rearguard. Fellow frontman Shane Long, who scored the only goal in the FA Cup replay against Ipswich Town in midweek, has odds of 2/1 to dispatch again anytime.

Their hosts will be wanting to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge previously, and fans should have been encouraged by their attacking performance. Moussa Sissoko was the last Magpies player to score for them in the 3-3 draw against Burnley, and the versatile France midfielder is 11/4 to net anytime. Fellow engine room operator Jack Colback also dispatched in the game, and is 6/1 to do so again in the same market.

Ayoze Perez is likely to be a threat to the Saints defence with his movement, and the Spaniard is 15/8 score anytime, having last done so in the 3-2 win over Everton in the Christmas period.