Saturday 18th August 2012, 5-30pm
A match up between two of last season’s contenders for the Champions League places promises to provide an entertaining start to the Barclays Premiership season of 2012/13.
This exact fixture last year at in the North East produced an enthralling draw, with Shola Ameobi netting the Toon’s equalizer. However, despite the two teams being evenly matched for most of last season, there has been a great deal of change for the North London club, starting with their new manager being Andre Villas Boas.
Villas Boas has faced Newcastle once before, winning 3-0 at St James’ Park with his Chelsea side last season, but having been a failure by and large for the Blues it will be interesting to see how he gets on this season. Both these sides will be aiming to finish in and around the top four again, but it’s going to be a tough ask with any of last year’s top eight all aiming for a European place.
Newcastle have some mounting injury problems as the season draws nearer, something which will worry them due to their fixture congestion in the early week’s of the campaign. Papiss Cisse (hamstring), Demba Ba (shin), Yohan Cabaye (fitness) and Hatem Ben Arfa (knee) all missed their last friendly, a 4-1 defeat to Cardiff, and captain Fabricio Coloccini was forced off during that clash.
Highly rated midfielder Tiote also didn’t complete the game, complaining of a calf strain. However, none of the players have been definitely ruled out and therefore Newcastle fans can be hopeful of seeing some of them, if not all, involved in some respect during this game.
Aside from those front-line stars, this season can see the return of Steven Taylor for Newcastle, who missed a large proportion of last season through injury. This selection dilemma facing Alan Pardew could mean starting briefs for Ameobi, and maybe some younger players such as Romain Amalfitano or Haris Vuckic.
In terms of Tottenham’s preparation, they are suffering a striker shortage of their own kind, with Adebayor not returning on loan or permanently (yet) and Jermaine Defoe looking like one of their only options upfront. It’s been a Summer of rumours for Spurs in truth, linked with numerous players. They have secured the signings of Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who will surely play some part in this opener, with Scott Parker ruled out with a persistent Achilles issue.
Danny Simpson vs Gareth Bale
Having pulled out of the Olympics, Welshman Bale has had a flying pre-season despite picking up a slight knock in a spat with Charlie Adam. Expect him to start down the left hand side here, and provide a stern test for Danny Simpson. If Simpson can force Bale back into his own half, and get help from Newcastle’s wide midfielder, Tottenham will have one of their main threats limited. Perhaps Pardew will opt for Jonas on the right merely to help counter this threat.
Sigurdsson vs Tiote
If the Ivorian does start, and likewise Sigurdsson is named in the Spurs staring XI, this is going to be a huge battle. Having struck several spectacular goals for Swansea last season, the Icelandic international will have to be shackled at any possible opportunity, a job tailor-made for hard man Tiote. If he’s out injured with a calf problem, Newcastle might struggle to replace him and this could be costly.
Walker vs Santon
Two attacking full backs on display down the same side means something will have to give, and if Walker leaves space down the right flank Newcastle could capitalize. Likewise, Santon will have to be very alert to prevent Walker offering an overlap in number, as this would be dangerous.
The Spectator’s Prediction
Newcastle 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur