Premier League 17/18: Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
With their Champions League ambitions still needing to be tied down, Spurs will try to charm the Magpies for three more points.
20:00 BST, Wednesday 9th May, Wembley Stadium (London, England)
A surprise defeat by now-relegated West Brom has left Spurs dangling in fourth position and looking nervously over their shoulders at Chelsea.
Having collected only four points from their last four league games and suffered yet more semifinal heartbreak in the FA Cup along the way, their season is in severe risk of burning out.
This game against Newcastle, therefore, can not afford to return anything less than victory for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Newcastle have already achieved their main goal for this season, something reflected by the consecutive losses suffered since crossing the 40-point threshold.
Rafael Benitez’s team have lost each of their previous three fixtures, albeit, only by a single-goal margin, and are currently limping towards the beaches of summer.
While the chance to play at Wembley could prove inspirational to his players, Benitez side have only won once from eight attempts on the road in recent weeks while they haven’t triumphed at Wembley for 63 years.
Last Time Out
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
Spurs were caught by a late sucker-punch as West Brom performed the perfect smash-and-grab over their visitors.
Following the lethargic win over Watford, it was another empty display from Tottenham who started the match with three centre-backs for the first time in the league since December.
While West Brom sat deep and allowed Spurs plenty of possession, Pochettino’s side couldn’t find the quality needed to cut through them.
Harry Kane was again peripheral to the match while Christian Eriksen looked subdued in a deeper midfield position.
After dominating the game with 74% possession, Spurs had failed to create any clear chances of note or build any telling pressure on their host’s goal.
With the game seemingly meandering towards a stale stalemate, a goalmouth scramble saw Jake Livermore poke the ball into his former club’s net and secure an injury-time win for the Baggies.
Watford 2-1 Newcastle United (Premier League)
A game of two halves saw Newcastle make a concerted effort to save the game after a horror show of a first half.
It took less than two minutes for Newcastle to fall behind, Roberto Pereyra the player to put the finishing touch to a passing move which punished the visitors static defence.
The lead was then doubled by Andre Gray before Paul Dummett clumsily tangled with the striker to concede a penalty. Martin Dubravka saved Dummett’s blushes with a fine double-save from Troy Deeney’s spot-kick and the Magpies were then able to reorganise themselves during the interval.
With Ayoze Pérez reducing the deficit 10 minutes into the second half, Newcastle poured forward in search of an equaliser and potentially more. Their old problems in front of goal re-surfaced, however, leaving them unable to convert their chances despite running the hard miles.
Tottenham Hotspur Lineup
Harry Winks (ankle) and Eric Dier (illness) will definitely not feature in this match while doubts over the fitness of Serge Aurier (hamstring), Jan Vertonghen (ankle) and Mousa Dembélé (ankle) could see several changes made by Pochettino, including a return to a formation which employs a back-four.
Newcastle United Lineup
Benitez has no new injury worries but will still be without Jesús Gámez (ankle) Christian Atsu (knock) and Islam Slimani who is suspended.
There is a return from injury for Mikel Merino, however, he is unlikely to force his way back into the team given the form of Jonjo Shelvey in central midfield.
There could well be recalls for both Matt Ritchie and DeAndre Yedlin but few other changes are expected.
Key Battle: Harry Kane (Tottenham) vs Florian Lejeune (Newcastle)
With hindsight suggesting that Kane returned from his recent injury too soon, the England striker will once more try to recapture his form on Wednesday.
Kane was a peripheral figure during his sides defeat to West Brom, something which has followed a worryingly regular trend of late.
With his ball control and passing as errant as his finishing, Kane will be hoping for an improved display which will put him in the headlines for all the right reasons after this match.
Looking to keep the striker subdued will be a player who has become crucial to the Magpies defence.
Captain, Jamaal Lascelles, may have picked up much of the credit for Newcastle’s defensive resilience this season. However, Lejeune has been as solid as his defensive partner since cementing his place back in the team 3 months ago.
After talking of his disappointment in Kane’s failure to apologise for a crude foul in the season’s opening game that left him sidelined for two months, the French defender will look to respond in the best way possible by keeping the forward from impacting the result.
The circle of four
For all of the talk that the Premier League’s top teams are growing in efficiency, the top four positions look likely to be decided by similar margins to last season. Currently in fourth-place with 71 points, Spurs have two more games to play.
Last season, fifth-placed Arsenal missed out on a top-four slot with a total of 75 points. This suggests that Spurs can afford no less than two more wins as any dropped points will put them into a similarly perilous position.
With Chelsea currently snapping at their heels and Liverpool unable to breach the 75-point barrier, the ultimate placings at the top will most probably be finalised on Sunday.
While Spurs still have control of their own fate, they also have the possibility to start to shake the reputation of falling at the final hurdle when victory is within reach.
A record-breaking summer
Earlier this week, Benitez made a statement that all football fans want to hear their manager say. Pressed in a news conference about the clubs plans during the summer, Benitez admitted that they will need to break their current transfer record to sign a new striker.
There’s nothing more in the world of football that can elicit such joy from a football fan. The thought of a new number 9, a new hero on which to pin their dreams is the eternal spring of summer hope.
While their current transfer record has stood for 13 years, a time when Michael Owen cost them £16.5 million, that sum is unlikely to capture a striker of any significant quality in today’s market.
Having just returned Islam Slimani to Leicester after a disappointing loan move, the £28 million record signing for the Foxes should serve as a sharp warning for Newcastle fans.
Whether Benitez receives the funds from Mike Ashley this summer to see through his wish also remains to be seen.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Newcastle United
Despite two sub-standard performances from both teams, Spurs simply must win this match while Newcastle would take a win as a pleasant bonus to the season’s end.
The superior quality within the Tottenham squad will give them a clear advantage. However, nerves could well make this a tighter contest than it appears on paper.
With home advantage and high stakes, Pochettino’s men have suffered too many disappointments over recent months for them drop out this time too.