Newcastle host Tottenham at St. James’ Park on Sunday in the English Premier League. The hosts lost last weekend but a win here would take them six clear at Spurs with a game in hand. The visitors lost in dying seconds to Bournemouth a week ago and were beaten 2-1 by the Magpies in October.
Eddie Howe’s side still have the best defensive record in the Premier League this season despite their humbling last weekend. At home, they’ve only been beaten once all season with a paltry nine goals leaked in 14 fixtures. After a run of one win in seven in the league, they won five league matches in a row to get back on track for a top-four finish. A 2-1 home win against Wolves was followed by ending Nottingham Forest’s nine-match unbeaten home run.
A last-gasp Alexander Isak penalty sealed a 2-1 win at the City Ground. A fantastic 2-0 home win against Man Utd followed with a 3.22 Expected Goals difference. Their last three matches have been away. They thrashed West Ham 5-1 and ended Brentford’s 10-match unbeaten run at home by winning 2-1 at the Gtech Community Stadium. In their last match, they weren’t at the races in a 3-0 loss at Aston Villa.
Newcastle Team News
Left winger Allan Saint-Maximin missed the defeat at Aston Villa but he is the only significant absentee for this match. Eddie Howe may want to recall Sean Longstaff in midfield for some extra steel in the engine room.
Miguel Almiron looks certain to take Anthony Gordon’s place in the starting XI having returned to full fitness. Alexander Isak has five goals in six league matches whilst Callum Wilson has netted three goals in his last four. Only one is likely to start unless Eddie Howe uses Isak down the left in preference to Jacob Murphy.
This is a massive match. A win would take them significantly closer to finishing in the UEFA Champions League places. They won’t settle for a draw in this one.
As with the Man Utd home match in early April, the crowd will be very vocal and the players will play at a very high intensity and throw men forward.
Spurs have been below their best for several months. They had a seven-match run from early February which saw four losses. Those included a 4-1 thrashing at struggling Leicester and meek cup exits to Sheffield United in the FA Cup and AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League, drawing 0-0 at home in the second leg. A 3-1 home win against Nottingham Forest was followed by a 3-1 lead at Southampton turning into a 3-3 draw.
Antonio Conte’s post-match comments saw the coach relieved of his duties with assistant Cristian Stellini taking the reins. His first match saw a last-minute goal conceded to draw 1-1 at Everton before a fortunate 2-1 home win against Brighton, who were denied a clear penalty. Their last match saw a 3-2 home loss to relegation battlers Bournemouth as they conceded in the dying moments. Spurs had 24 shots and a 0.92 xG differential but never looked secure.
Tottenham Team News
There are a lot of injuries to deal with for this match. Yves Bissouma and Rodrigo Bentancur are missing in midfield for the rest of the season. Emerson Royal had surgery and is out whilst Ryan Sessegnon is also ruled out. Arnaut Danjuma scored in the last match and may get a start instead of Dejan Kulusevski.
Lucas Moura is suspended in attack and both Ben Davies and Clement Lenglet are injury concerns in the back three and will require late fitness tests. Davinson Sanchez replaced Lenglet against Bournemouth but was hooked after just 23 minutes on the pitch. Japhet Tanganga could get the nod in preference to Sanchez for this one if Lenglet and Davies are ruled out.
Spurs know that a win would take them level with Newcastle (having played a game more) and just three points off Man Utd. There is great motivation to take three points but confidence in the squad is low.
A draw is not a terrible result and keeps their top-four hopes alive, but a defeat makes that aim much less likely. This is a must-not-lose.
Newcastle have lost just once in 15 home EPL matches (W9, D5)
Newcastle have won 5 of their last 6 league matches
NUFC have scored 2+ goals in 5 of their last 6 EPL fixtures
Spurs last 5 league matches have seen 20 goals (11 scored, 9 conceded)
Tottenham have lost 3 of their last 6 away matches (EPL), conceding 13 goals
Six of Spurs’ last 8 games at St. James’ Park have seen Over 3.5 goals
This fixture tends to have plenty of goals. Spurs are having serious defensive issues and may need to score at least three times to get a win in this match. I am backing a home victory whilst the goal markets look very tempting.