Spurs met Newcastle on the opening day of the season, losing to a late penalty after Jermain Defoe had levelled the score only four minutes earlier. It was an unfortunate start for Andre Villas-Boas in his first competitive match in charge of Tottenham. From that point, Newcastle’s season progressed steadily and without too many concerns. By early November, after 10 matches, they were in mid-table with 14 points. They had only three wins, the problem being too many draws (5). At home they had wins over Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion and a draw with Aston Villa. Away from St. James’ Park Newcastle had suffered only one defeat, at Stamford Bridge, but had draws at Everton, Liverpool, Sunderland and Reading. They were proving difficult to beat but were not scoring enough goals.
From then to mid-January, Newcastle went 12 League games and took only 7 points, slipping to 16th in the Premier League. Their defeats included a 4 – 3 loss at Old Trafford followed three days later by a 7 – 3 defeat at Arsenal over the holiday period. Newcastle were looking in serious trouble, only two points above the relegation zone and having also suffered a 2 – 1 FA Cup defeat at Brighton in the 3rd Round. Through this poor run of form they did, however, manage to qualify from their Europa League group as runners-up and face Metalist Kharkiv from Ukraine next week.
Following a mid-January 2 – 1 home defeat to Reading , some transfer business has improved the club’s fortunes and they have taken maximum points from their last two games. They achieved their first away win of the season in the League at Aston Villa and defeated Chelsea 3 – 2 at home last weekend. They are in 15th place, six points from safety.
Faced with worries of relegation, the Magpies recruited Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (central defender), Mathieu Debuchy (right back), Massadio Haidara (left back), Yoan Gouffran (winger) and Moussa Sissoko (central midfield) in the January transfer window so Tottenham need to be wary of their revitalised team. Sissoko scored twice against Chelsea and with other players returning from injury, Newcastle will a much more difficult proposition than they would have been a few weeks ago.
Andre Villas-Boas’ main concern is over the availability of Emmanuel Adebayor. With Jermain Defoe out for three weeks following the injury at West Brom, Adebayor would have been expected to step straight into the team as the only senior striker available. Togo were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations last Sunday but Adebayor delayed his return to London and uncertainty remains over his whereabouts. If he were to be unable to play, the team may start with Clint Dempsey taking the striker’s role, as he did after Defoe’s injury. That would give Lewis Holtby, the opportunity for his first start for Tottenham after impressing in his two appearances as a substitute.
With no other injury worries, the remainder of the team will probably be unchanged from the starting eleven at the Hawthorns.
Team: (possible) Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Parker, Dembele, Bale; Holtby; Dempsey.
Tottenham took advantage of favourable results last weekend to close the gap on Chelsea and move away from Everton and Arsenal. If they can take three points from the lunch-time kick-off against Newcastle, that would increase the pressure on those teams to match Spurs’ result. Spurs need to start quickly, to put pressure on Newcastle who will be anxious to avoid a repeat of last season’s result and also want to build on the improved performances and results in their last two games. Newcastle lost Demba Ba during the transfer window but were relieved to retain Cisse, Ben Arfa and Cabaye. They have strengthened their defence with their new signings from France, but facing Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will be a test of their resolve at White Hart Lane. Sissoko has also brought pace and goals to midfield so Tottenham need to be prepared to negate that threat.
Tottenham are undefeated in the League since conceding two late goals in added time against Everton at Goodision Park and have taken 19 points in 9 matches. They will hope to have three more points on that total, come the final whistle against Newcastle.