Newcastle United host Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 (11:45 AM Pacific, 19:45 GMT) for Matchday 26 of the English Premier League at St. James’s Park. The Magpies have only won one game in 2014 and have lost their last two matches against Sunderland and Chelsea. Alan Pardew’s side is smarting after those back-to-back 3-0 defeats and is looking to make up ground in the battle for European qualification.
Tottenham surpassed Everton to fifth place after beating the Toffees 1-0 last time out at White Hart Lane, and remain very much in the race for fourth place. Tim Sherwood’s team are only three points behind Liverpool, so even if they are not impressing with their brand of football, they keep picking up points, with the business end of the season approaching fast. Newcastle won at White Hart Lane back in November thanks to a goal from Loic Remy, so revenge is on the cards for Spurs.
Last chance for Newcastle
Wednesday’s game is probably the last chance for Newcastle to show they are capable of something significant this year, as their Europa League qualification rivals are running away. After a slow start to the season, the team accelerated from October on, until things made a turn for the worse in December.
The 5-1 demolition of Stoke City on Boxing Day was followed by one win in the next seven league games and defeat in the FA Cup. Newcastle found the net only in one game during that spell, and two of their goals -in a 3-1 win at West Ham- were scored by a player no longer at the club, Johan Cabaye. Alan Pardew’ side was rocked by the loss of arguably their best performer to PSG, and the injury situation has not helped the manager either.
For the visit of Spurs, the Magpies’s gaffer faces the difficult task of finding solutions to compensate for the loss of key players. Leading club scorer Loic Remy is suspended, defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Mathieu Debuchy are injured, while there are more problems in midfield, where vice captain Cheick Tiote, Gael Bigirimana and Gabriel Obertan are also sidelined. It’s not all bad news for Pardew though, as forwards Papiss Cisse and second goalscorer Yohan Gouffran could be back from injuries.
Pardew is not expected to change his 4-2-3-1 formation in front of ever-present goalkeeper Tim Krul. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa should start replacing the injured Debuchy at right back, but there’s not much room for tinkering elsewhere. Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor should continue their partnership in the heart of the defense.
Paul Dummett played on the left last time out against Chelsea, with Davide Santon moving in midfield to help Vurnon Anita in the absence of Tiote, an idea that could be applied again. Moussa Sissoko will probably play again as a right midfielder with Hatem Ben Arfa in a central position and Sammy Ameobi or Gouffran on the left. Dutch striker Luuk De Jong started last time out for the first time since he joined the club in January on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach, and Pardew could keep faith with him up front. Shola Ameobi and Cisse -if fit- are the other options, as Newcastle are desperate to return to the goals.
Spurs not giving up
Tottenham were not at all impressive last time out against Everton where their defense was tested. They held on though for a precious clean sheet, and managed to get all three points thanks to an Emmanuel Adebayor goal. Tim Sherwood has not won over everyone with his tactical choices, but he has managed to get the best from the Togolese striker, and his return to the team after being exiled under Andre Villas-Boas is proving to be a shrewd move by the new manager. The style of Spurs’ play leaves a lot to be desired though and goals must start coming from the other strikers as well, if the club has aspirations of playing Champions League football next season.
The Lilywhites visit St. James’ Park, defending their record as the best travelers in the Premier League. They have the joint most wins away with eight (same as Arsenal), while they have lost the fewest games, suffering only two defeats. Overall, they have lost only one of the last nine Premier League matches, the heavy 1-5 home defeat by Manchester City.
As for tactics, Sherwood has utilized both 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations since his appointment. He played Adebayor up front against Everton as a lone striker, with Moussa Dembele returning in a five-man midfield. Roberto Soldado remained on the bench and did not even came on as a substitute, with the manager preferring Jermain Defoe. Whether Sherwood has lost patience with the Spaniard, or he was just resting him to revert to 4-4-2 for St. James’ Park is anyone’s guess. But after the return of Dembele, the most probable to be sacrificed from midfield to accommodate two striker would be Nabil Bentaleb, and Sherwood seems to have much faith in the young French midfielder to drop him.
Another dilemma for the manager is whether to start Andros Townsend or not. The English international winger returned from injury as a substitute against Everton and is vying to start. In that case, Aaron Lennon could find himself in the substitutes’ bench. For the other places in midfield, Paulinho and Christian Eriksen seem certain to be in the manager’s starting lineup, while the back four seems settled with Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose in front of regular keeper Hugo Lloris.
Newcastle vs Tottenham Prediction
It will most probably be a close affair and goals should come in short supply. We already mentioned Newcastle’s dreadful scoring record of late, while Spurs have scored only 35 goals in 25 matches. Tottenham though, look like a better team compared to the injury decimated hosts, and could take three points with the sole strike of the match. Result: 0-1 for Tottenham.
Newcastle vs Tottenham Television
The match will be televised on Premier League Extra Time (US), for all other countries, check on LiveSoccerTV.