Newcastle United head to The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday afternoon after contrasting midweek results for The Magpies and Spurs in The Premier League has created a chance to narrow the gap between the sides and close in on The Champions League place that is becoming a distinct possibility for Eddie Howe's men.
While The Magpies stretched their unbeaten run to six games, the longest in the top flight, with a 1-0 win against Everton thanks to Miguel Almiron's latest wonder goal:
Spurs lost 2-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford, where Newcastle claimed a draw and a clean sheet just four days earlier.
The three points left Newcastle sixth in The Premier League table just two points behind Chelsea who are 4th but if Eddie Howe's men had received even just the extra two points from the PGMOL's admitted VAR error denying a goal & win against Crystal Palace, Newcastle would be sitting in a Champions League qualification place now:
It is said that "Attacks win matches, defences win Championships" and The Magpies currently have the best defence in The Premier League having conceded just nine goals in their opening 11 games having already played Champions Man City and Liverpool.
A six-game unbeaten run comprising three wins and three draws has saw Newcastle surge up the table from 11th to 6th place built on a defence that is said on Tyneside to be the strongest built on Newcastle since the Roman's built Hadrian's Wall:
Howe's men are looking hard to beat just like in last season's nine-game unbeaten surge up the table when they were characterised by their defensive mettle & resilience grinding out wins and draws before an unlikely late dash for European football was ended by dodgy refereeing at Chelsea:
Once again Newcastle head to the capital on a strong run of form with momentum building and travelling Geordie fans and the watching eyes of the anti-corruption authorities will be trained upon the man in the middle and the VAR officials after inexplicable injustices earlier in the season have put The Magpies on high alert.
Spurs' Season Or Spursy Season?
Spurs have had a very good start to the Premier League season after 11 games and following their win at Everton last week to put them on 23 points from the opening 10, Antonio Conte had guided his club to their best start to a PL season ever:
So despite that loss at Man Utd, Newcastle will have to be at their best away to a Spurs side that beat them 5-1 in the corresponding fixture last season despite taking the lead through a Fabian Schar free-kick:
Eddie Howe had played five at the back at Stamford Bridge with three centre backs and wing backs in that narrow 0-1 loss to Chelsea but reverted to a four at Spurs and paid the price defensively but with the arrival of 'Rolls Royce' defender Sven Botman, that has all changed this season and The Magpies haven't lost yet with the Dutchman playing.
Under Antonio Conte, Spurs have become a more solid if less entertaining outfit than under previous fans' favourite Mauro Pochettino but as long as they are flying high in The Premier League and impressing in The Champions League where they are currently top of a tough Group D comprising Sporting Lisbon, Marseille and Frankfurt, Spurs fans will accept the Italian's defensive pragmatism as the price of recent progress.
Losses to bitter rivals and League-leaders Arsenal and Man United as well as a controversial draw against Chelsea have been less palatable to supporters and means Spurs haven't beaten what is becoming a Top 7 at the top of The Premier League now - 'the Top 6' plus Newcastle - who have drawn against both Manchester clubs and lost to Liverpool but on a level playing field would have at least one big scalp to their name.
Unsurprisingly England Captain Harry Kane is Spurs' top scorer again this season with 10 thanks to more than his fair share of penalties while Son Heung-Min has five and summer signing from Everton Brazilian Richarlison has just the two Champions League headers although he has given Tottenham strength in depth & an option from the bench,
Newcastle are punching their weight as one of the elite clubs they aspire to be after 11 games and hope to welcome back Allan Saint-Maximin to the fold soon as in the second half against Everton, penetration into the final third was at a premium until the arrival of Eliot Andersen and Ryan Fraser, both of whom have a shout of featuring at Spurs after Eddie Howe hinted at making changes and freshening up the team that has played two days in four days and faces a third Premier League game in eight next.
In his pre-match press conference, Howe revealed that Brazilian dynamo Joelinton - who limped off St James' Park at half-time on Wednesday night and didn't reappear for the second half - has a slight injury issue so is a doubt for Sunday:
before the Newcastle manager paid tribute to local midfielder Sean Longstaff, who has been a fixture in Newcastle's side during the recent good run praising the Geordie for his good character, creativity and athleticism as "integral" :
Howe spoke about learning lessons from the heavy defeat at Spurs last season so there may be a temptation to play five at the back bringing Matt Targett in left-wing-back and moving Dan Burn into the middle as one of three centre-backs to give Newcastle more defensive protection and numbers at the back although the presence of Sven Botman, who has never lost a game in a Newcastle shirt will add more steel to the back-line:
Either way, Newcastle will avoid defeat and win a point or three would be massive for a team chasing European football and even the more lucrative Champions League spots.
Prediction - Newcastle United 1 Spurs 0