Newcastle face a stern test in their opening match of the 2012-13 Premier League campaign as last year's 4th place finishers Tottenham Hotspur come to St. James' Park. While a replication of their tremendous unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2011-12 season is unlikely at best, there is potential that we just might be catching Spurs at a good time. Andres Villas-Boas (whom Sir Bobby Robson is said to have been instrumental in getting into management) is coming off of a tenure of less than a season at Chelsea that has left his reputation somewhat tarnished. He brings a squad that is on the verge of selling their best midfielder and is (if you can fathom it) shorter in depth at the striker position than Newcastle are. Additionally, Scott Parker is going to be out injured while Brazilian Sandro has been away from the club all summer on Olympic and International friendly duty. The tasty midfield match-up from last year of Modric/Parker v. Cabaye/Tiote will be completely dissolved. For our part, Yohan Cabaye is reported to have an injury that may keep him out on Saturday, so we will have our own questions to answer.
It's always hard to preview the first match of the sesason- take the preseason body of work from Newcastle United as an example. Over the course of the preseason, all we really know is that Alan Pardew has meticulously tried every player in every position that he could potentially play. We can make default assumptions that we'll roll out the ol' 4-3-3 that turned our fortunes out of the mid-season doldrums last year, but there is a small matter that Alan Pardew has (allegedly) promised Demba Ba a more central position and Hatem Ben Arfa may or may not be healthy/ready to start Saturday.
After the jump, 5 points featuring numbers, trends, and guesses about starting lineups!
- Spurs have had a pretty torrid time of it when they've started seasons on the road. In their last 8 season openers played on the road, they have gone 1-1-6 and lost their last three in a row.
- Newcastle have not been shining stars in their opening match in recent years, either, last winning their first day Premier League fixture in 2007.
- Recent times have seen this match-up result in streaks- Tottenham are holders of the current streak, undefeated in their last 5 matches v. Toon.
- Spurs were the 5th best defence in the Premier League last year, conceding only 41 times (behind ManU, Man City, Everton and Liverpool). In order to correct this horrible awfulness, they have added Jan Vertonghen to the mix. Could be a tough nut to crack for Papiss and Demba.
- The last time Spurs defeated Newcastle at St. James' Park in the league was 2004.
- Bonus 6th point- There were 9 goals in the league matches between these two last season. 7 came from Spurs (5 of those at White Hart Lane)
Newcastle United FC
Currently: 0-0-0, 0 pts.
Possible: Demba Ba (shin), Papiss Cisse (hamstring), Fabricio Coloccini (calf), Hatem Ben Arfa (knee), Yohan Cabaye (fitness)
Projected XI (4-4-2): Krul | Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, Santon| Obertan, Tiote, Cabaye, Jonas | Cisse, Ba
Projected Subs: Harper, Perch, Raylor, Anita, Marveaux, Shola, Amalfitano
Currently: 0-0-0, 0 pts
Out: Parker (knee), Rose (suspension), Gomes (ankle)
Projected XI (4-4-1-1?): Friedel | Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto | Lennon, Huddlestone, Sigurdsson, Bale | van der Vaart | Defoe
In the last couple of years, a lot of the damage (including goals) against Newcastle has come from Lennon and Bale on the wings. Our chances in this match will be directly related to Simpson and Santon's ability to at least contain these two to a degree.
What Will Certainly Not Happen:
We will not go out and roll Spurs 5-0 in payback for the humbling they served us last season at White Hart Lane.
What May Just Happen:
The match will start out somewhat nervy. Spurs will grab the upper hand, perhaps an opener. Just when it appears that we will look awful for the entire match, we will pull the goal back. We may nick ahead in the second half, only for Spurs to pull it back level waaaayyyyy late in injury time.
Newcastle United 2 (Cisse, Ba) - Tottenham Hotspur 2 (Sigurdsson, Bale)