Four things for Rafa Benitez to ponder before Newcastle play Southampton

Back to 4-2-3-1?

Newcastle lined up in a 5-4-1 at Liverpool in an attempt to nullify the attacking threat posed by the Reds, with Kenedy and Deandre Yedlin deployed as wing-backs to snuff out the influence of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in wide areas. It’s a system that has been used by Rafa Benitez on a few occasions this season, notably in the 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City just after Christmas, and his defensive game plan once again courted criticism from pundits.

Not that it will concern Benitez, a manager confident in his convictions. Approaching the game with Southampton, the United boss is likely to revert back to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation that served the Magpies well in the four-match unbeaten run that preceded the defeat at Anfield, including that 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the last home match. It’s the tactic most regularly used by Benitez this term so expect to see Newcastle setting up in that shape at kick-off.