This is the kind of match that sets the FA Cup apart from other competitions, as Spurs travel to Wales to battle League 2 side Newport in the fifth round.
Don’t expect an easy-on-the-eyes, back-and-forth match. If Newport get their way, this will be as scrappy a match as you’ll see this season, a prototypical dogged FA Cup affair.
The League 2 side upset Leeds, who are currently 10th in the Championship, with an 89th minute Shawn McCoulsky’s winner. It’s Newport’s first trip to the fourth round of the FA Cup in 41 years. Newport, know as the Exiles, have won three of five matches and are unbeaten in five.
This tie provides Newport with the chance of a lifetime, to upset a Premier League juggernaut on their turf. As a collective, the Exiles will work their socks off in trying to disrupt Tottenham’s flow. They’ll slow the pace, play for stoppages and use their physicality to frustrate and agitate Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
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Executing that game plan will be made easier by the state of the pitch at Rodney Parade. First and foremost, Rodney Parade is the home ground of Dragons regional rugby union team and rugby union club Newport RFC.
You seldom see rugby pitches that are up to Premier League standards. It will be uneven and chewed up, with bald, barren patches, a far cry from the pristine carpet Spurs enjoy at Wembley. That type of playing surface will benefit the home side.
Spurs, however, are one of the top sides in the Premier League and should be easily able to overcome those minor issues, as the gulf in skill and credence between the clubs couldn’t be more staggering.
Tottenham are 59 places above Newport in the Football League, with the Exiles currently settled in 8th place in League 2.
Pochettino, with Manchester United beckoning on Wednesday, will shift drastically his starting lineup from the side that drew Southampton on Sunday. Toby Alderweireld, out since Nov. 1, might see some action after recovering from his hamstring tear slightly earlier than expected.
Foreseeing a 2-0 hard-fought victory for the Lilywhites, Pochettino’s men will leave Rodney Parade with a newfound respect for the steely, unwavering determination with which Newport acquit themselves.