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Keep Your Enemies Closer: A Q&A with Tottenham Hotspur blog Cartilage Free Captain

We sat down with Bryan A. of Cartilage Free Captain to receive some insight into Tottenham Hotspur ahead of Sunday's match.

Julian Finney

Newcastle United travel to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. We sat down with Bryan A. of SBN's Spurs blog Cartilage Free Captain to get some insight into the match.

Coming Home Newcastle: What are your expectations for the rest of the season? Is the Champions League in this team's foreseeable future?

Bryan A.: I expect that this team continues to grow into Pochettino's system and that the various young and inexperienced players in the squad will show their worth. The table is still so jumbled at this point that I have no idea. I fully expect a fifth or sixth place finish, but Manchester United and Liverpool could continue to be just ok and Arsenal could lose every senior defender they own, thereby allowing us to sneak into the top four. I'm not really expecting that though. This is a season of flux, so if we just maintain or position from last season and buy smartly in the summer, then maybe we challenge for the Champions League.

CHN: How do you feel about Mauricio Pochettino so far?

BA: Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of the Pochettino hire initially (unlike most Spurs fans) and I still have some concerns about him. Namely, I'm concerned that he's a tactical ideologue that lacks a plan B. He's shown in the last couple of games he can adapt his tactics though, so maybe I'm just a pessimist.

On the whole, I think Pochettino is fine. His willingness to play young players and put them in positions to succeed is great for Spurs because we have a handful of really good young talents. He's also managed the strain of the Europa League pretty well. Once the players really get accustomed to his system, that's when things will really start going well. Unfortunately, that might not be until next season.

CHN: O/U 3.5 penalties this week?

BA: Under. Last week was stupid and I don't want to talk about it.

CHN: What's up with Roberto Soldado? Have you given up on him, or does he have utility for Spurs?

BA: I've definitely not given up on Soldado. Last weekend's performance against Manchester City was probably his best in a Spurs shirt. When you consider that he missed a penalty and another really good chance that sounds pretty pathetic, but everything else he did in that game was great.

Soldado's biggest utility is the way he links and combines with Tottenham's attacking midfielders, particularly Erik Lamela. He really brings everyone into play and makes intelligent runs that draw defenders out of positions. Soldado definitely isn't as bad as he's played lately and I'm not willing to give up on him. He'll be useful for Spurs this season if only by virtue of knowing how to control his limbs (unlike a certain Togolese striker).

CHN: Aside from Harry Kane, what young player (under 21, let's say) are you most excited about?

BA: If it's a player under 21, then it has to be Nabil Bentaleb. He's just 19, but he played a lot during the latter half of last season and earned himself a call-up to the Algerian squad for the World Cup. He's injured at the moment and fellow academy player Ryan Mason has taken Bentaleb's place as the more attacking member of our double-pivot midfield, but I'm much more excited by Bentaleb's potential.

CHN: If you were Alan Pardew, how would you set up your team to play Tottenham?

BA: The best ways to give Tottenham trouble are to either be really really fast on the counter or to sit back and defend responsibly. I'm not to confident in Newcastle's ability to sit back in banks of four and defend for 90 minutes, so I'd set up with all of my fastest players in the team. I'd probably keep things about the same, except I'd bring in a presumably fit Tiote for Colback (Anita seems to always play well against Spurs) and maybe drop Cabella and bring in Sammy Ameobi.

Honestly, all Newcastle would need would be a quick counter where Cisse or Gouffran gets in behind Kaboul and the rest of the defense. That kind of quick and easy goal tends to deflate Tottenham.

CHN: What's your prediction for the match?

BA: 2-1 Spurs. We're at home and we're coming off of a really fun Europa League match that we won big. I think we keep that momentum going into this match, but I don't trust our defense enough to make this match ever feel comfortable.

Our thanks to Bryan A. for taking the time to answer our questions. Please visit Cartilage Free Captain for all things Tottenham Hotspur.