Southampton sweating on defender's fitness as Ralph Hasenhuttl sets safety target ahead of Newcastle clash
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl still believes his side need 40 points to stay up this season ahead of Saturday's meeting with Newcastle at St James' Park.
The Saints sit 16th in the Premier League table on 36 points, five points clear of the relegation zone, ahead of their meeting with Rafa Benitez's side.
Yet Hasenhuttl, who took charge of Southampton in December, still insists his side have work to do if they are to remain in the top flight - especially following Cardiff's win over Brighton on Tuesday night.
"No," replied Hasenhuttl when asked if his side had done enough to beat the drop this campaign.
"For sure we need more than 36 points. Five points clear of Cardiff. Three points clear of Brighton. You see the result on Tuesday shows that nobody gives up.
"There is no knockout for Cardiff, they are still alive. I expect them to fight very hard until the end and so we have to do the same and I guarantee we will do."
Newcastle are just two points ahead of Southampton prior to their meeting, with Benitez too insisting his side will need 40 points to ensure Premier League safety.
Hasenhuttl, who left German side RB Leipzig last summer, is yet to face a Rafa Benitez side in his 11-year spell as a manager.
The German is therefore looking forward to the challenge, with Southampton looking to record their fourth win in five games.
"I’ve never faced Rafa Benítez before," said Hasenhuttl when asked about the Magpies."They are a very good team in a fantastic stadium with a good atmosphere, a fantastic football atmosphere, and they do it very well at the moment.
"They are nearly safe, but they also want to make the last step to climb to 40 points.?
"For us it’s another good challenge to show that we can compete in away games. In Brighton we took three points and that was important for us, a massive win for us, and at Newcastle we try to do it again. ?
"We try to be a very good, balanced opponent that knows exactly what to do against a very good organised team with a high quality and it’s not easy to take points there but it’s never easy in the Premier League."
Southampton do have a few injury concerns ahead of the clash, with Hasenhuttl confirming defender Jannik Vestergaard is a doubt with a groin problem.
Fellow defender Yan Valery is expected to be fit after overcoming a thigh injury this week.
The game is likely to come too soon for midfielder Mario Lemina, though, with the 25-year-old still struggling with an abdominal injury.