Newcastle - Tottenham Preview: Villas-Boas set for tough assignment in opening game as Spurs boss
The new manager at White Hart Lane will look to get his new career off to a winning start against a Magpies side who soared into the top six of the Premier League last season
By Nicholas McGee
Simpson, S. Taylor, Coloccini, Santon
Marveaux, Cabaye, Ba
Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto
Sigurdsson, Van der Vaart, Bale
Alan Pardew's Newcastle have a string of injury doubts to contend with going into their opening game. Cheikh Tiote and Yohan Cabaye are both struggling for fitness, while Hatem Ben Arfa has already been ruled out with a knee injury. Should Tiote not be able to play then new signing Vurnon Anita could replace him in central midfield. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are both expected to recover from slight knocks.
Tottenham's Gareth Bale is expected to be fit for the contest, which will come as a big boost to manager Andre Villas-Boas, who will have to prepare for the game without midfielder Scott Parker, who is suffering from an Achilles problem. New signings Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson could both make their debuts at Sports Direct Arena.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
Newcastle's last opening day league win came back in 2007 when goals from Obafemi Martins helped them to a 3-1 win at Bolton under then newly-appointed boss Sam Allardyce.
The Magpies have not lost to Spurs at home in the league since 2004 when a goal from Thimothee Atouba proved to be enough to give Jacques Santini's men the win.
The two teams last met on an opening day in 1993, when Spurs beat a newly-promoted Newcastle 1-0 at St James' Park.
Newcastle's second biggest Premier League win was recorded against Spurs back in 1996 when they thrashed Gerry Francis' men 7-1. Their biggest win came in September 1999 when they beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 under new boss Bobby Robson, Alan Shearer bagged five goals.
Tottenham's last opening day league win was back in 2009 when they defeated Liverpool 2-1 thanks to goals from Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong (pictured), who had recently signed from Newcastle.
Spurs players Jermaine Jenas, Scott Parker and Sebastien Bassong have all enjoyed spells at Newcastle.
Rafael van der Vaart and Jan Vertonghen and Newcastle's Vurnon Anita are all graduates of the world renowed Ajax academy.
Spurs' 5-0 triumph over Newcastle at White Hart Lane last season was their biggest win of that campaign.
Chris Hughton and Osvaldo Ardiles are the only two men to have managed both Newcastle and Tottenham in their careers.
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Top 3 Predictions
Newcastle United 1-2 Tottenham
- 14.84 %
Newcastle United 2-1 Tottenham
- 14.67 %
Newcastle United 1-1 Tottenham
- 11.21 %
|Premier League (EPL)||12 Feb 2014||Newcastle United 0 - Tottenham 4|
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|Premier League (EPL)||9 Feb 2013||Tottenham 2 - Newcastle United 1|
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|23 Feb 2014||Newcastle United 1 - Aston Villa 0||EPL|
|12 Feb 2014||Newcastle United 0 - Tottenham 4||EPL|
|8 Feb 2014||Chelsea FC 3 - Newcastle United 0||EPL|
|1 Feb 2014||Newcastle United 0 - Sunderland 3||EPL|
|10||Hatem Ben Arfa||Midfielder|
|23||Rafael van der Vaart||Midfielder|
Renowed for his versatility and ability the dictate the tempo of the game, Anita can play at either right-back or left-back as well as in central midfield.
It is in the middle of the park where Newcastle made need him this weekend however, as he is expected be thrown straight into the squad with both Cabaye and Tiote struggling for fitness.
Being thrust into the starting line-up should not be a problem for a player used to competing in the Champions League. If the 23-year-old is able to dictate the flow of the game and help Newcastle control possession, then that could give the Magpies a very good platform as they look to earn maximum points from their opening day encounter.
That form led to a tussle to secure his services on a permanent basis, and despite interest from Liverpool it was Spurs who eventually won the race to sign the 22-year-old former Reading man.
Spurs have little in the way of options up front, Jermain Defoe is their only recognised striker and he cannot be expected to shoulder the goalscoring burden all on his own.
Therefore goals from midfield will be crucial, and fans will almost certainly look to the likes of Sigurdsson and Van der Vaart to deliver the goods and get the Andre Villas-Boas reign off to a winning start on Saturday evening.
No team ever wants to lose their opening game of the season and although these two sides are two very fluid and aggressive teams, they are also both very astute defensively. Expect a tense but low scoring affair with a draw the most likely outcome.