Southampton manager Nathan Jones believes Newcastle United hold an advantage as the two sides prepare to meet in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.
The Magpies have not reached the last four of the League Cup since 1976 when they saw off Tottenham Hotspur before going on to fall to a narrow defeat against Manchester City in the final. Eddie Howe’s men will also become the first United side to play in any semi-final since Graeme Souness led the club to the same stage of the FA Cup in 2005 as they suffered a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Manchester United.
Despite that poor record, spirits are high on Tyneside as Howe and his players make the trip to the South Coast looking to replicate the impressive performance they put in during a 4-1 win at St Marys in a Premier League clash between the two sides earlier this season.
Jones admitted his struggling side will have to make the most of their home leg on Tuesday night before making the trip to Tyneside for what is already an eagerly-antipated night at a sold-out St James Park.
He said: “As a player I got to a number of semi-finals and finals, so I know the mentality it takes to win them. It is a different level but what we would love to take a lead to St James Park because, one, you have to be solid make sure the game doesn’t go away from you, and two, that you can try and get a lead yourself because you know it’s going to be a tough second leg.
“You know it’s better to have the second leg at home but you never know. I am really excited about the game. Not only have we played one of the best teams in the world in the quarter-final, we’ve now got one of the best teams in the Premier League to play against but when you get to this stage, you’re not going to get an easy game.”
Despite his desire to take an advantage into the second leg, Jones is adamant his players will not ‘go all guns blazing’ on Tuesday night.
“You have to balance,” he explained. “You can’t go all guns blazing. We want to be really positive at home and away because at no point have we ever sat in. There is a balance because you want to make sure over this 180 minutes you are either ahead or able to do it.
“You don’t want to be out of a tie because you’ve done something silly, so there’s a balance to be had. We’ve got to make sure we’ve tactically, physically and mentally ready for a war.”
Jones revealed his admiration for the job Howe has overseen at Newcastle since he was named as successor to Steve Bruce in November 2021. The former Bournemouth manager has overseen a major turnaround in fortunes after leading the Magpies away from the relegation zone last season before embarking on a surprise push for a Champions League place during the current campaign.
The Saints boss praised Howe for his work in the transfer market and in developing existing members of his squad - and he revealed he had an interest in one Magpies player that is set to feature at St Mary’s on Tuesday night.
“They’re a big, strong athletic side and have been able to build that with what they had in the building and then they’ve gone out and signed and developed people. (Sean) Longstaff, we tried to sign him at Luton from his loan spell at Blackpool. A real mixture of big money spent, development and improving those who have been there. It’s a tough ask. We have to make sure we try and be a positive side.”