TOTT Preview, Newcastle United v Spurs
Spurs are the visitors to St James` this afternoon, riding on the rest of a wave as they seek to cement a European place for next season. Despite a good record against them since 2004, Spurs are the only team from inside the M25 to beat the Toon in the league in 14 matches. Who will come out on top?
The last time the 2 managers met before this season, honours were even in a 0-0 draw at Upton Park, with Pardew in charge of the home side. Newcastle and Spurs have not had a scoreless match on this ground in the last 37 meetings since 1965, or 62 at either ground since 1971. Both of course have been managers at West Ham, Pardew being sacked when taking them into a relegation position, Harry having been sacked in 2001 after some indiscreet comments to a fanzine.
Harry Redknapp returns to the team he claims to have turned down 2 seasons ago, on his way to FA Cup glory at Portsmouth. He is looking for 3 wins on this ground out of 4, the most impressive being a 4-1 against Allardyce with a counter attacking Portsmouth.
His own record at St James` started with 2nd division defeat with Bournemouth, gaining heroic revenge in an FA Cup replay 2 years later against former Spurs player, Ardiles as manager. Harry will be aware that the only time Spurs have beaten Newcastle since 2004 was when there has been another former Spur at the helm with a weakened side, Hughton as caretaker in a League Cup match in 2008.
Pardew entertains a team who he played 4 Inter Toto cup games for in 1995, under former coach Chris Houghton. He was of course in charge for the defeat at White Hart Lane in December, His own record against Spurs is one win and a draw at West Ham, combined with 5 defeats.
Selection problems abound for Pardew, not least the target who Spurs grossly undervalue, Carrol being out, along with Tiote suspended, Steve Taylor injured and newcomer Gosling reacting with his pre-existing long term injury. However, Steve Harper is fit to continue in goal.
To complete the back four are the record breaking clean sheet quartet from last season, Simpson reveling in the Premier League, Enrique, birthday boy Coloccini and Williamson who will relish his own potential battle against Crouch. Former Spur, Campbell is available as cover.
Alan Smith`s injury means that there is no natural replacement for Tiote, leaving Guthrie a guaranteed start, probably in the middle with the option of swapping places with Barton on the right. Routledge`s move to QPR leaves little right sided cover, with Nolan also striving to overcome illness. Jonas is expected to start on the left, but the potential to move to the opposite flank could create playing time for young Ferguson.
Ameobi, scorer of a goal in this fixture in April 2005, is set to lead the line, probably alongside Best whose home Premier League record is 3 goals per start, albeit only having made one, that also being against a London club. Lovenkrands is set to deputise, himself with a home record of 0.71 per start overall with Ranger haing been on song for the reserves.
The bench should give a fascinating insight into the Toon`s future prospects.
Spurs come into the match with an altogether healthier squad. Gomes will be keen to make sure that there is at least one team in the Premier League not to score against him this season. This is Newcastle`s 2nd chance, with Man City being the only other team to fail to score against the Brazilian.
In defence we expect to see a former rumoured Toon target and former Sunderland loanee, Alan Hutton. On the other flank, Assou-Ekotto is a doubt, which could lead to either Bale dropping back or a place in the team for Newcastle Old boy, Bassong. Another former target, Dawson and Gallas seem to be the natural centre pairing.
Midfield is where Spurs overran Newcastle in December, new signing Piennar available to come in depending on the defensive line up. Modric has been a revelation since turning Newcastle down with Jenas hoping to resume against his old club if Harry chooses 4-5-1. Lennon is a handful on their right and of course top league scorer Van der Vaart. Palacios is doubtful.
The embarrassment of riches in midfield is matched up front, with England`s Crouch perhaps leading the line, compatriot Defoe mayb be a bench warmer, Pavlyuchenko being 3rd top scorer and Robbie Keane also taking a look around his potential future home from a cosy pitchside seat.
Referee for the afternoon is Mark Halsey, who has not been seen much this season, although he contributed to an exciting match at St James` against Wigan. He is welcomed back from illness, even though Newcastle have failed to win in the last 7 matches under him, including a defeat at White Hart Lane and some large scores otherwise. Spurs have an altogether better record under him, he having been brought up in the Spurs catchment area of Hertforshire and in his playing days representing nearby Barnet.
Refereeing often seem strangely appointed despite their obvious affiliations, this being one of those cases when the FA computer seems to recognise current location as compared with loyalties. If Halsey does his job properly, we can expect an interesting contrast of skill against passion and industry.
Spurs should start as favourites, in a match where the first goal cold prove crucial. Newcastle have yet to win a game then they have not scored in the first half, with Spurs being the come back kings of the Premier League, winning from behind 5 times. The history of this match, however, is unpredictable, with the real coupon buster being a 0-0.
Newcastle v Spurs at St James`:
71 W33 D16 L22 F131 A93
16 W10 D3 L3 F34 A16
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, Barton, Nolan, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Donaldson, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger.
Tottenham (from): Gomes, Pletikosa, Cudicini, Hutton, Corluka, Dawson, Kaboul, Gallas, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Sandro, Palacios, Jenas, Bale, Lennon, Modric, Dos Santos, Van der Vaart, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko, Keane, Defoe, Pienaar.