Newcastle United host Tottenham on Sunday, in a game that will have huge ramifications in the race for Champions League football. The home side are the favourites to end in the top four, but they don’t have the experience of Spurs. If the away team can win this weekend, they will move level on points with the Magpies, albeit having played a game more. A win for the home side would inflict a major blow on the visitors and would put Eddie Howe’s men in a very strong position. In reality, it is a must-win for Tottenham.
It has been an extremely good season for Newcastle United. Few would have expected them to be challenging in the top six. Not even the biggest Newcastle supporter would have put them in this position in April. Howe has done an incredible job and the level of consistency has been impressive. Last weekend, they were poor against Aston Villa and were comprehensively beaten. It came as a surprise, as the Magpies haven’t put in a performance like that all season. Howe will be hoping it was a blip and that the team returns to their high standard at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Tottenham are facing a big summer with the club at a crossroads. A lot of the squad are getting on in age and it is clear that they need some fresh faces. Harry Kane is a club legend, but as he is approaching the end of his contract, there may be a temptation to cash in. They are searching for a new manager and they need to get the next appointment right. After Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, Spurs need a different type of character to re-engage the fan base. It would be a great salvage job if they were to get a top four finish. At the time of writing, not many Spurs fans will be confident that the team will manage it.
Alexander Isak has scored a goal every 113 minutes in the Premier League. Out of the players with more than five goals, only Erling Haaland scores at a better rate.
Tottenham have a good recent record at St James’ Park, winning four of their last five visits in the Premier League.
Bruno Guimaraes will be key for the rest of the season. There is nobody else in the Newcastle squad that is comfortable in the deeper midfield role. The Brazilian may want to play further forward, but he is one of the best sitting midfielders in the league. There is a fluidity to Newcastle’s game that does allow the midfielder to get further forward at times. Tottenham can be quite static in midfield areas and they will struggle to deal with the dynamism of their opposition. There are a number of contenders for the team of the season within the home side’s squad. Guimaraes will be a leading candidate, as he has been one of the most consistent players in his position this season. There is a general agreement that his talent belongs at a higher level. If he can help Newcastle finish in the top four, there will be a chance to prove it next season.
If Tottenham are to qualify for next season’s Champions League, the reason will be Harry Kane. He remains one of the league’s best players and he has been consistent in a struggling team this year. If he wasn’t at the club, Spurs wouldn’t even be in the top four conversation. Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min have both struggled to find the same levels that they showed last season. Kane has carried the attack and the team, with 23 goals and two assists. This season, there has been a change in his game, as he has once again been the main goal threat in the team. Last season, there was a preference to drop deeper as Son was on fire. Due to the drop in the South Korean’s output, the England captain has once again become the main goal-scorer in the team. If Erling Haaland wasn’t breaking records, there would be a lot more praise for Kane’s goal-scoring form. He has a good record against Newcastle, with six goals and three assists in the last six matches against the Magpies.
Sean Longstaff will be fully recovered from illness and should return to the starting eleven. Allan Saint-Maximin is a doubt after a hamstring issue. He has returned to the training ground this week after a trip to France. It is likely Anthony Gordon will drop to the bench with Joelinton and Joe Willock rotating between midfield and left wing. Miguel Almiron is pushing for a recall.
Ben Davies and Clement Lenglet are both doubts. Lucas Moura is suspended, while Ryan Sessegnon won’t feature. Rodrigo Bentancur is out for the season, while Emerson Royal is sidelined with a knee injury. There are defensive issues for Cristian Stellini to contend with this weekend.
The loss to Aston Villa was a wake-up call for Newcastle. They can’t afford to drop their standards if they want to finish in the top four. Their reaction this weekend will show whether they are serious contenders or if the pressure is getting to them. Tottenham are a team without direction at the moment. The atmosphere will be difficult for the visitors to deal with, as Liverpool are the only team to leave St James’ Park with three points this season. Based on the overall form lines and performance trends of these two teams, it should be a home win.
Newcastle United 3-1 Tottenham