Ralph Hasenhuttl's latest Newcastle United jibe sets up intriguing encounter at Southampton

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is ready to face a Newcastle United side that has ‘changed completely’ since the originally scheduled fixture on January 2 was postponed.

The Magpies were originally set to travel to St Mary’s for their first match of 2022 but the match was postponed due to Eddie Howe’s squad being decimated by Covid-19 and injuries.

The rearranged match will take place on Thursday (7:30pm kick-off) with Newcastle’s squad significantly stronger compared with how they started the year.

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Howe will have January signings Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn and former Saints left-back Matt Targett to choose from at St Mary’s while Kieran Trippier will miss out with a fractured metatarsal.

Ralph Hasenhuttl manager of Southampton during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on March 5, 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Allan Saint-Maximin – who scored the winner the last time Newcastle won at Southampton in 2020 – is also back available having previously been ruled out for the original fixture date.

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Hasenhuttl previously hit out at Newcastle for the postponed matches and felt it was ‘not really fair’ for the new signings to play in rearranged fixtures.

Back in January, Southampton would have been facing a depleted Newcastle side who had won just one of their opening 20 matches of the 2021-22 season. Now they face a side who have won five of their last six games and have climbed up to 14th in the table.

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Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, Hasenhuttl addressed the issue.

“[It’s] strange now to concentrate on a game what you should've played two months ago against a completely different team but it is how it is,” he said. “Things are changing but it doesn’t affect us, definitely not, we are also better than two months ago so we are ready for the challenge.”

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When asked if the postponement has suited Newcastle, Hasenhuttl responded: “It's not for me to discuss this. We spoke about that there is a chance in the transfer window to change the team completely and I think they did.

"It was expected that they would do it. But no matter what players are coming here, we are looking forward to this home game.

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"We have our crowd behind us, we have a very good atmosphere in our stadium and we’ve had a good run there and we are going there with all the belief we have built up and you can be sure we will show a reaction from the Saturday game.”

The Magpies have climbed from the foot of the table up to 14th and are seven points clear of the relegation zone following an eight game unbeaten run. They will be looking to extend that run at a ground they have won just twice at in the Premier League.

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And the Southampton boss has praised the ‘fantastic’ job Howe has done since arriving at Newcastle back in November.

“Absolutely good, fantastic,” he added. “He’s stabilised the team, stabilised the club and stepped out of the relegation zone and there's not really a big threat of relegation any more.

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"They're on a good run of form and it will be an interesting game.”

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