In-form Jay Rodriguez will be determined to catch the eye of Roy Hodgson once more when Southampton entertain Newcastle United on Saturday.
A return of 13 goals from 31 Premier League appearances in 2013-14 has put the 24-year-old firmly in contention for a place in Hodgson’s England squad for the FIFA World Cup later this year.
Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is the only other Englishman to score more league goals this season than Rodriguez, who has netted in each of his last three outings.
Rodriguez timed his latest goal-scoring performance perfectly, as Hodgson was in the stands at White Hart Lane last weekend to see the Southampton forward break the deadlock before Tottenham battled back to win 3-2.
The clamour for Rodriguez to go to Brazil for the showpiece tournament is steadily growing, and he will be hoping to extend his purple patch when Newcastle arrive at St Mary’s Stadium, providing he can prove his fitness.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino is monitoring Rodriguez, along with defender Nathaniel Clyne and midfielder Steven Davis, as the trio are struggling with knocks.
One player definitely missing for Pochettino is defender Maya Yoshida, who faces six weeks out with a knee ligament injury.
Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Guly do Prado and Kelvin Davis (all knocks) were absent against Tottenham and could again be unavailable.
Just a point separates Newcastle in eighth and nearest rivals Southampton in the Premier League table, meaning it is likely to be a tight affair, as it was when the sides drew 1-1 in December.
Alan Pardew, Pochettino’s opposite number, needs no introduction to Southampton fans following his one-year spell in charge, when he guided the club to Football League Trophy success in March 2010 and also signed Rickie Lambert.
Pardew will resume some of his matchday duties on Saturday – most notably giving the pre-match team talk – after completing his three-match stadium ban for headbutting Hull City’s David Meyler, although he does now start a four-game touchline suspension.
He said: “I’m pleased because it gives me access to the dressing room, which I like to operate in and I like to think I have some influence in.
“I’m looking forward to being back in a changing room that I know well.
“In terms of my own standing in the game, I need to make sure that with the experience I have got, I use it in the right manner.
“Southampton have had a fantastic season, but we’re still above them and we want to stay there.”
Goalkeeper Rob Elliot is primed to make his first Premier League start of the season in place of Tim Krul, who suffered a knee injury in Tuesday’s 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Everton.
Top scorer Loic Remy is edging closer to a comeback from a thigh problem, but is pencilled in to be back against Manchester United next weekend.
Referee Andre Marriner, meanwhile, takes charge of the game and will be hoping he produces a performance that goes largely unnoticed after sending off the wrong player in Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.
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