The Premier League top-four battle heats up as Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur trade tackles in a battle for supremacy at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Both sides head into the crunch meeting on the back of respective defeats to Aston Villa and Bournemouth but remain serious contenders for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Fresh from last weekend’s thumping 3-0 defeat against Villa, Newcastle will hope to return to winning ways and consolidate their top-four spot in the Premier League table.
Eddie Howe’s side had won five league games in a row before the disappointing collapse, but they will hope last weekend’s fiasco is only a blip in their top-four ambitions.
Tottenham, who are still finding their feet under the stewardship of Antonio Conte’s protegee Cristian Stellini, fell to a 3-2 defeat to relegation-battling Bournemouth.
The Italian’s record since assuming interim management of the Lilywhites leaves a lot to be desired regarding his ability to lead them to a top-four finish.
Nothing but a win against their top-four rivals at the weekend will be enough to put them back firmly in contention, with their Champions League ambitions already hanging by a thread.
Last weekend’s capitulation would have served as a reality check to Howe’s relentless Magpies, but the Tyneside outfit have shown unwavering resilience in their quest to realise their ambitions.
The importance of returning to winning ways sooner than later is not lost on Newcastle, who will fancy their chances against familiar foes and favourite opponents Spurs.
Newcastle have only won more Premier League games against Villa (24) than they have against Tottenham (23), and are looking to complete their first league double over Spurs since 2015/16, having won the reverse fixture 2-1.
Famous for their ability to bounce back this term, Howe’s side will be keen to shake off the disappointment at Villa Park that ended their five-game winning run.
Alexander Isak has been a real danger man for Newcastle, scoring five goals in his last six league games since returning from injury.
The 23-year-old is averaging a goal every 113 minutes in the league this season, second only to Man City’s Erling Braut Haaland (one every 70 mins) among players to score at least five times this term.
Stellini has only won one of his three games in charge of Tottenham, drawing one and losing one since replacing Conte in the dugout.
Not much seems to have changed since Stellini took over, and he is now faced with a task to dispel murmurs of discontent suggesting he is ‘just another Conte’ while also leading the team to a place in Europe’s most prestigious tournament.
The chances of that happening look bleak at the moment, and losing to the lowly Cherries from a winning position could have damaging effects on the dressing room confidence.
Coming up against Howe’s side could be the pick-me-up Tottenham need as they have won four of their last five league away games against the Magpies (D1).
However, they are winless in their last four league away games (D2, L2) – their longest run without a victory since February and November 2019 (12 games).
What will worry Stellini more is that Spurs have not won a league game outside of London since October (3-2 vs Bournemouth), with their last two away wins coming at Crystal Palace and Fulham.
Premier League Form
Newcastle United: WWWWL
Tottenham Hotspur: WDDWL
Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur Potential Line-ups
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Nick Pope; Dan Burn, Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Kieran Trippier; Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes, Joe Willock; Callum Wilson, Alexander Isak, Miguel Almiron.
Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-3): Cristian Romero, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez; Pedro Porro, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp, Ivan Perisic; Dejan Kulusevski, Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane.
We Say: Newcastle United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Both sides head into the crunch clash on the back of respective defeats, but if previous form is anything to go by, Newcastle should return to winning ways, piling the pressure on the inconsistent Spurs, whose Champions League hopes are currently hanging by a thread.
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