With Danny Ings on the sidelines, Ireland striker Shane Long could be set to start for a Southampton team that could go top of the Premier League with victory over Newcastle tonight.

The Saints will be without Ings for the visit of Steve Bruce's side after their star striker underwent surgery on a knee injury.

The England international, who has scored five times this season, is set to be out for at least one month.

In his absence, Theo Walcott and Republic of Ireland international Long are in contention to spearhead Southampton's attack alongside Che Adams.

Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, 53, said: "Whoever gets the chance to play should know this is a big chance and grab it because we now have four to six weeks without Danny.

"We need somebody who gives us alternatives, and who gives us the best opportunities for what we demand – we will take a decision from there."

A 1-0 win would take Southampton top on goal difference with a game more played than their rivals

Hasenhuttl said it would have been "stupid" to predict Southampton could stand at the summit of English football.

It has been 32 years, when Southampton were managed by Chris Nicholl, since the club were last top-flight table-toppers.

But following a run of four victories from their last five outings, Hasenhuttl’s side are on the brink of a small piece of history.

"If you told me this would happen before the season, I would say you are a little bit stupid," said Hasenhuttl. "We are lucky that we play Friday evening because it gives us a great chance."

It caps a remarkable 12 months for Hasenhuttl after his side were thrashed 9-0 by Leicester last October and facing up to the prospect of a relegation dogfight.

But they went on to finish a credible 11th and head into Friday’s fixture fifth in the division after their opening seven matches.

However, Hasenhuttl is refusing to get carried away with his side’s encouraging early-season form.

"I have seen so many teams in the beginning of the season being top of the table and near the top, and then relegated," the former RB Leipzig manager added.

"We know things can change so quickly – a few injuries or something like that – but at the moment we are a very strong side and we showed again we can have a high level of performing.

"Before I came here, I worked at a team where losing was nearly not allowed because we wanted to be top in Germany, and this mentality I tried to implement from the first day that I’m here.

"We have that mentality of, I sometimes call it, we like to be the pirate and it’s more fun than to join the navy. So it’s definitely something we can use every day and makes it fun to go and grab some points from the big teams."