Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur: Classic Encounter, Recent Form, Team News and More
Newcastle host Spurs in their return to the Premier League in what will be a tough test of their Premier League credentials. Newcastle will be hoping for an upset, backed by the Toon Army at St James Park.
Spurs have failed to win on an opening day for two seasons running, and will be hoping to end this run, guided by Mauricio Pochettino going into his third season in charge.
Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez's comments this week show he is "unhappy" with the current direction of the club regarding transfers, but remains committed due to the fans.
A loss in this game would not be season defining by any means, and it may entice owner Mike Ashley to pull his finger out and provide the funds. It could be argued that a good start is significantly more important for Spurs, who look to push on for the Premier League title.
This classic encounter was, in fact, the team's last meeting in the Premier League, 15 months ago. On the final game of the 2015/16 season, already relegated Newcastle provided a fitting swan song by defying the odds and putting in a performance that was far too late in the season. A 5-1 demolition of Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs at St James Park gave the faithful fans something to cheer about despite the club's turmoil and uncertainty over Rafa Benitez future.
Goals from Gini Wijnaldum [two], Aleksandar Mitrovic, Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat left Spurs stunned; add a Mitrovic red card to the mix and you have a truly gripping game of football. Wijnaldum was particularly impressive on the day, firing in the opener with venom and Newcastle's third from the spot.
That defeat for Spurs coupled with Arsenal's 4-0 win over Aston Villa meant that Pochettino's men ended their season below their north London rivals, having spent the entirety of the season above their hated neighbours. The famous "St Tottenham's Day" that Arsenal fans crow about had arrived, as Spurs continued a 21 year run of finishing below the Gunners.
From this game, only one player is expected to retain their place in the starting lineup ahead of the fixture on Sunday, a certain Paul Dummett. The Rafa revolution is clearly in full flow.
Spurs pre-season has had its ups and downs, victories over European giants PSG and Juventus have been impressive, as Spurs have shown the ability to break down tough defences. Scoring four against PSG, Spurs had them under the cosh, dominating possession with 60%, and also having twice as many efforts on goal as the French club. Kane has also scored on three occasions within the five fixtures.
However, it is a pre-season that has been plagued with injury, Kieran Trippier's ankle injury against Juventus leaves Spurs significantly weaker at right-back, given the departure of Kyle Walker. Furthermore, Spurs were dismantled 3-0 by Manchester City, with both sides playing a full strength team, this creates doubt over their title challenging credentials.
Rafa Benitez has used pre-season as a time to experiment, using a total of 30 players across the club's six fixtures; to varying success. Recent wins against Wolfsburg and Hellas Verona have proved inspiring, with Christian Atsu using his devilish pace to full effect. With transfers up in the air, Benitez may be forced to get the most out of the players currently at his disposal.
The step up in quality from the Championship to the Premier League is significant, and it could be argued that Newcastle's pre-season was more of a morale boost than a true challenge. Playing lower league sides such as Preston North End and Bradford boosts confidence within the squad, but Spurs could easily shock the system and send their morale to rock bottom.
Kieran Trippier's absence is a huge loss for Spurs, sustaining an ankle injury from Spurs 2-0 win over Juventus. They will also be without Heung Min Son, Erik Lamela and Victor Wanyama who are all out of action for the opening day. With Spurs significantly weaker due to these first team absences, Newcastle can smell blood, could they capitalise on a weakened side this Sunday?
Meanwhile, Newcastle may be without their potent striker Dwight Gayle, who is touch and go with a hamstring problem. Rafa Benitez still believes the forward will be okay to start, according to the Shields Gazette, but pointed to confidence as the determining factor, saying:
“He needs the confidence to know he can sprint and do everything as he was doing before. We will carry on pushing him in training, and hopefully, we can get back the confidence."
Opening day fixtures are always hard to call, and with Spurs weakened by injury, this one could really go either way. Spurs have a reputation of buckling under pressure despite their evident quality, and a strong start to the season is essential should they look to go one step further this season.
Meanwhile, Newcastle have not made the splash in the transfer market that was expected of them, and could come unstuck when it comes to meetings with the top six. Spurs remain the favourites for this one and may have to ride out a nervous win, but a win nonetheless.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-1 Spurs