Southampton, who made the final in 2016-17, are having a torrid season. Having been as high as 9th when beating Chelsea at the end of August, Saints have won just twice since. The appointment of the Nathan Jones, untried at the highest level, has done little to arrest the slide and they currently sit bottom of the table having lost 1-0 to Villa on Saturday. In one sense, this will provide a welcome distraction from their league woes, and their fans will be hoping they can repeat the performance that saw them stun Man City 2-0 in the previous round.
Newcastle remain in third place in the table as we head into the second half of the season, despite a series of frustrating results in the league in recent weeks. The Magpies have scored just one goal in their last four league games, but have also yet to concede in that time, establishing their defence as the meanest in England. With the second leg at St James’s Park, another clean sheet here would tip the odds of progressing heavily in their favour, and, with no league game until February, Eddie Howe will be able to throw all of his resources at the tie as he bids to become the first man to manage Newcastle in a cup final since Ruud Gullit in the 96-97 season.