Newcastle United return to the comfortable confines of St James’ Park this weekend to host a direct competitor for Champions League qualification in Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s as high-stakes a meeting as it gets, with NUFC sitting fourth with 56 points in 30 games and the Spurs right behind the boys with 53 in 31. Yes, the Magpies can afford to lose this one and still remain on top of Spurs on goal difference (24 to 12 right now) and with a game in hand, but let’s go for the win and settle this thing instead of playing with fire and burning our buttocks.
Newcastle will be playing their fourth game in fewer than 20 days come Sunday’s kick-off. They defeated West Ham (5-1) and Brentford (2-1) in their back-to-back games in London but then visited Birmingham and played, as Eddie Howe put it after the final whistle, their “worst game of the season” losing by a monster 3-0 score in their first loss by more than two goals this campaign.
Time to get back on track and win another one, such as they did when they first faced Tottenham in London a few months ago and beat the Spurs (2-1) on the road.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Friday, ahead of the matchup against Tottenham at St James’ Park scheduled for Sunday, April 23rd.
There will be something interesting happening this weekend that we’ve grown unaccustomed to of late: a game taking place at St James’ Park. And the gaffer is well aware.
“We’re pleased to be at home and hope we can feel the force of the crowd.”
“Hopefully the crowd will have an impact like they have done in other games.”
“The huge league games, the crowd have been magnificent for us and definitely carried us in certain moments.
“It’s the kind of game where you’re never sure it’s going to go your way for 90 minutes and there will be moments in the game where we need to be strong and compact together and hopefully the crowd can help.”
Is the game against Tottenham Hotspur a pivotal one looking forward to clinching a top-four finish?
“It’s a huge game for us. There’s no denying that.”
“At this stage of the season the games are running out and we’re playing one of our competitors in the league.
Will feel good to have the Toon backing the boys on Sunday. One they won’t (most probably) be able to catch live on location, though, is still-recovering Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin.
“We’re not 100% sure on Maxi yet, but there’s not been a setback.”
“It’s taken maybe a little bit longer than we initially thought but with hamstring injuries you have to be careful.”
About spending one nightmarish Saturday in Birmingham...
“It was an uncharacteristic performance from us.”
“We’ve been so consistent home and away, and we’ve not always won the games... but we’ve had certain hallmarks within the performance and it was probably the first time that we didn’t deliver those.”
“It was maybe a good time to regroup and refocus our energies on our performance with so few games to go.”
Anything to say about Academy product and superlative midfielder Sean Longstaff? Any chance he makes it to the starting XI?
“He’s over his illness and he’s trained well this week.”
“I’ve always maintained he’s a hugely important part of our midfield. Both in and out of possession he’s a very intelligent footballer so I think a lot of his off-the-ball work goes unnoticed.”
“On the ball he’s got a really good way of keeping the ball for the team which is an invaluable quality.”
“He’s got an eye for a really progressive pass as well so he helps us go through teams’ structures.”
One assured to remain out this weekend is Sweden international Emil Krafth, still recovering from an ACL injury suffered at the beginning of the season. Howe provided a little update.
““He’s doing well. He’s confident about his recovery.”
“I’m not sure we’ll see him in the squad before the end of the season but what we do hope is that we can implement him back into training very lightly towards the end of the season.”
Tottenham has played the same XI for two consecutive Premier League games under caretaker gaffer Cristian Stellini. It might be time for him to rethink his plan, though, as the Spurs defeated Brighton but then went on to lose a thriller against Bournemouth last weekend.
Ben Davies and Ryan Sessegnon have been ruled out for Sunday’s clash against the Magpies while they keep recovering from their respecting injuries. Clement Lenglet suffered an injury last weekend, too, and is questionable to play on Sunday.
Rodrigo Bentancur and Emerson Royal are all out, while Lucas Moura is suspended for this matchday. No more banged-up players have been reported from the Spurs HQ at the time of this writing.
- Date: Sunday, April 23rd
- Kick-off: 14:00 BST / 9:00 EST
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, Telemundo, NBC Sports App, USA Network, nbcsports.com (USA) — SKY GO Extra, Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Premier League (UK)
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