Friday, 17 August 2012

Newcastle United - First Up

Spurs travel to the North-East to face Newcastle United for their opening game of the Premier League season on Saturday and I'm sure I'm not the only one that is delighted that football is back.

Last Season

Newcastle defied the odds to finish in fifth position last season, just behind Spurs and ahead of FA Cup and Champions League winners Chelsea. Not many had predicted anything more than another year of mid table obscurity for the Magpies, but Alan Pardew's side went about their work with little fuss and caused more than a few upsets along the way.

Pardew added Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Davide Santon to his side during the summer of 2011 and all three grew to become important parts of the side. Cabaye was fresh from a French league title with LOSC Lille but was keen to test his skills in England and didn't disappoint. Ba started the season in outstanding form, making several fans wonder why their own clubs hadn't taken an interest in the former West Ham United man.

When Ba's goals dried up, Pardew had already added Papiss Cisse to his squad and he finished the season with an incredible 13 goals in 14 games.

At home to Spurs last season Newcastle could only manage a 2-2 draw thanks to a late Shola Ameobi goal, but were embarrassed by one of Tottenham's most outstanding performances of 2011/12. At White Hart Lane that day Louis Saha bagged a brace to help Spurs triumph 5-0, just days after the conclusion of Harry Redknapp's court case.

Comings and Goings

This summer has been a bit quieter for Pardew, and the three signings Newcastle have made are unlikely to be automatic first choices this season.

French midfielder Romain Amalfitano joined from French first division side Stade de Reims and youngsters Gael Bigirimana and Curtis Good arrived from Coventry City and Melbourne Heart respectively.

In the past couple of days Ajax holding midfielder Vernun Anita arrived at the Sports Direct Arena. Pardew has described the as "top class" and also said "he's a number one character - right at the top of the tree for that - and hopefully his ability can flourish in what is a good side".

Fraser Forster completed his expected move to Celtic while Leon Best, scorer of four goals last season, dropped down to the Championship to join Blackburn Rovers.


It was a mixed bag for Pardew's men this summer, finishing off their series of friendlies with a record of three wins, three draws and two defeats.

An opening loss at the hands of Chemnitzer was followed by a 1-0 win over AS Monaco and consecutive 1-1 draws with Fernebache and Olympiacos. Following that a 2-1 win over Braga and a 0-0 draw with Den Haag led towards their biggest win and best performance of pre-season; a 5-1 win at Hartlepool United.

The joy from that win was short lived though and they were brought back down to earth with a bump after losing 4-1 at the hands of Championship side Cardiff City.

While pre-season form can't be used as a guide for how a team will start the season, there was encouraging signs for Alan Pardew and they'll be hoping to start the season with a positive result in front of their own fans.

Team News

Newcastle go into Saturday's curtain raiser with doubts still hanging over a number of players. Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse and captain Fabricio Coloccini are all doubtful, though Pardew is more hopeful on the later two.

It's a similar story for Tottenham, but there are definite absentees in Heurelho Gomes and Scott Parker. Sandro has had just two days of training with the squad all summer following his Olympic exploits while Giovano misses out with the injury that saw him sit out Mexico's Olympic Games final win.


It's still hard to tell how Villas-Boas will start at the Sports Direct Arena tomorrow evening, but his comments in the media suggest he is willing to throw Sandro straight back into the team. Should he start then it will likely be alongside Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone or Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Jermain Defoe will start up front and be supported by Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, a combination likely to trouble even the best defence.

If Spurs finally click and the high line adopted by the team can deal with the pace of Cisse and Demba Ba then the front four previously mentioned could be the difference between the two sides.

I'm expecting a high scoring affair, with both teams far from their best. If Spurs control the ball the way they did last season then it will be difficult for Newcastle to hurt them, but Tottenham remain fragile at the back. I'm going for a 3-2 win for Tottenham, with Bale, Sigurdsson and Defoe all scoring.

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