Newcastle United are to make their long-awaited return to the big time this Sunday, as Rafa and his men prepare to take on the formidable Spurs at St. James’ Park.
Many United fans do not know what to expect from their promotion heroes this season and an opening fixture against an enthralling Tottenham will be a completely different to task to what this squad is used to.
They won’t be trying to break down a stubborn Burton Albion side. Instead, they’ll be the underdog trying to hold firm and the aim will be to catch Pochettino’s men on the break.
A sold-out crowd of over 52,000 fans will be there to witness what should be a fascinating encounter and to gauge how the feeling is on the Tottenham side, we spoke to Joseph Phelan.
1) From the outside looking in, how do you rate Newcastle’s chances of survival?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Newcastle – my brother’s a fan – so my opinion is, perhaps, slightly skewed.
Everyone is aware that Benitez is a class act, and there are undoubtedly strong players throughout the squad. I’m a big fan of Lascelles, and on their day people like Shelvey, Gayle, Atsu and Pérez can be game-changers. I’d also like to see Mitrović turn it on this year; he clearly has bags of ability, but just hasn’t yet found his feet in England.
Getting the fans on side won’t be a problem, but it’s all about how this relatively young team copes with the pressure of competing in one of the world’s toughest leagues. I’m confident in the club’s survival, and can even see them pushing for a spot in the top half. However, I’ve been wrong before.
2) Much has been said of Spurs’ lack of activity in the market this summer. What do you make of it?
I don’t think our transfer window can be regarded as a failure, but I do think we’re playing a slightly dangerous game. For the last few months of the 2016/17 season, Spurs were arguably the best team in the country; we looked dangerous going forward, were solid at the back, and managed to grind out results in a way that past Tottenham teams were unable to do. That we’ve kept hold of the bulk of that squad – Kyle Walker being the only departure of note – is a very good thing.
We spent fairly heavily last summer – Sissoko for £30m and Janssen for £17m – and neither of those players really managed to hit the ground running. In fact, Sissoko seemed to hit the ground and then just lay completely flat for an entire season. Levy is clearly reluctant to splash huge sums of cash when recent investments have failed to pay off.
One major issue now seems to be Danny Rose. His recent interview in The Sun was something of a punch in the stomach this close the season starting. Perhaps he’s right in saying that he isn’t being paid what he’s worth in this ludicrous market, but isn’t this an issue to be discussed behind closed doors? It’s a little bit embarrassing, to say the least.
If Rose wants to go – and, despite his obvious abilities, he is replaceable – then Spurs could end up having a busy end to the window. I, for one, would love to see us put in a bid for FC Köln’s Jonas Hector.
4) What players should Tottenham be wary of in your opinion?
Given we’re likely to have Dier at right-back – a position he’s not really used to – I think the threat will be targeted in his direction. Newcastle have a fair few nippy attacking midfielders (Atsu and Ritchie spring to mind) so there’s definitely danger there.
Also, if Winks ends up starting, it could be that experienced players like Shelvey focus on his inexperience in an attempt to dominate the midfield.
5) Newcastle haven’t been at your level for quite some time but Spurs haven’t fared well against us in the past. Why do you think this is?
Even though Newcastle haven’t been in the Premier League title hunt for quite a while, I think there’s still something special about heading up to St James’ Park. It’s a huge, rather intimidating ground, and when the fans are fully behind the team there’s an atmosphere that few stadiums can rival.
I’m not sure why the Magpies are something of a bogey side for us, but hopefully we’ll be able to start this season how we ended the last one and come away with three points.
6) How do Newcastle go about winning the game? What weaknesses could they target?
As stated above, the best way for Newcastle to win could be to target Dier, who will likely be filling in for Trippier. Dier is a stellar player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s the obvious chink in the armour on this occasion.
However, this Spurs side is strong; the spine is incredibly robust, and Dele, Kane and Eriksen are always dangerous. If Newcastle can comprehensively stifle those three – though many teams have tried and subsequently failed – then a home victory could be on the cards.
7) How do you think Tottenham will lineup?
I think it’ll pretty much be the XI we were using towards the end of last season, but with Dier going to right-back to replace the injured Trippier.
I anticipate the XI being: Lloris – Dier, Alderwiereld, Vertonghen, Davies – Dembele, Wanyama (if fit, Winks if not) – Dele, Eriksen, Sissoko – Kane.
I’d be happier to see Son instead of Sissoko, but it looks like the South Korean won’t be fit in time. However, it’s still a very decent side.
8) And finally, your predicted score?
As a Tottenham fan, it’s somewhat unusual to come into this season with a sense of optimism. The best I usually manage is a kind of diluted hope.
Although I think we’re entirely capable of winning the game, I expect it’ll end up being a draw. It’ll be a lively encounter, but I’m going to go for 1-1, with Ritchie and Kane grabbing the goals
NUFC360 would like to thank Joseph for giving us his time.