Southampton’s Premier League campaign gets under way on Sunday as they travel to St James’ Park for a game against Steve McClaren’s Newcastle United – without manager Ronald Koeman.
The Saints boss will miss the trip on Sunday after picking up an Achilles’ heel injury on Wednesday night that meant he needed an operation on Friday afternoon.
His brother Erwin will lead the team against McClaren’s men on Sunday, knowing Saints can expect a lively atmosphere in what will be the former England manager’s first game in charge of the Magpies.
McClaren’s arrival on Tyneside has lifted the spirits of everyone at the club following a frustrating campaign last time around that saw them finish 15th in the table.
Saints, on the other hand, will be looking to pick up where they left off last season and build on the record Premier League points total they achieved on their way to finishing seventh.
The big news ahead of the game for Saints is that Koeman won’t be at St James’ on Sunday. The Saints boss picked up an Achilles’ injury ahead of the match against Vitesse on Thursday evening and has stayed in Holland for treatment.
Koeman was hopeful ahead of Thursday’s game in Holland that Jordy Clasie will be back from the injury he picked up against Vitesse in the first leg, while Shane Long should be back involved after missing the Europa League clash through illness.
Ryan Bertrand is still making his way back from injury, while long-term absentees Fraser Forster and Florin Gardos will both be missing for Saints on Sunday.
For the hosts, Fabricio Coloccini’s Achilles’ problem will be assessed, while Cheick Tiote, Emanuel Riviere and Paul Dummett are all likely to miss the Magpies’ season opener.
Summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum will be crucial to Newcastle United’s success this season. His move from Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven was McClaren’s first signing since joining the club.
The 24 year-old, who captained PSV to their first title since 2008 last season, signed a five-year deal with the club at the start of July.
A creative midfielder, Wijnaldum was named the Dutch Footballer of the Year last year, and has won 19 caps for the Netherlands to date, scoring three goals.
His 14 goals from midfield in the Eredivisie last season were crucial to PSV’s success, and Saints will need to make sure they are aware of his late runs into the box on Sunday at St James’ Park.
• Saints have won their opening Premier League fixture just once since 1999 – a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion in 2013.
• Newcastle United have failed to score in their opening game in four of the last five seasons since their return to the top flight.
• Saints’ win against the Magpies last season at St James’ Park was only their second victory on Tyneside since 1997.
Newcastle United knocked Southampton out of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup during the 1969/70 season. After a goalless draw in the first leg, a 1-1 draw at the Dell meant the Magpies progressed to the next round. Mick Channon’s goal was not enough for Saints, as Bryan Robson’s away goal proved decisive.
You can follow all the action from Sunday’s game at St James’ Park via the club’s social media channels. We’ll have live updates on Twitter
, goal updates on Facebook
and a liveblog running on saintsfc.co.uk