Newcastle v Tottenham: Jonathan Wilson’s tactical preview


TEAM NEWS

Tottenham have a number of players who could miss out, of whom the most significant is probably Keiran Tripper. The right-back, first-choice after the sale of Kyle Walker, turned an ankle in the 2-0 friendly win over Juventus last Saturday and looks unlikely to be back in the first fortnight of the season. Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama, Heung Son-Min and Erik Lamela also missed Saturday’s game.

Newcastle are definitely without DeAndre Yedlin, who has a hamstring injury, while Dwight Gayle is a minor doubt after missing the last Sunday’s 2-0 friendly win over Verona. The club captain Jamaal Lascalles, meanwhile, was left out of the starting XI on Sunday as a precautionary measure to protect a knee injury and may struggle to replace Florian Lejeune alongside Ciaran Clark at centre-back.

 

RECENT FORM

The victory over Juventus was a welcome boost for Spurs after back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Roma. They did begin the International Champions Cup by beating Paris St-Germain 4-2, though. Newcastle’s pre-season form has been encouraging with four wins and just one defeat in six, despite the constant background politicking between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley. Wins over Verona and Wolfsburg followed a defeat to Mainz.

 

PAST MEETINGS

Tottenham were Newcastle’s opponents in their last game in the Premier League, the Magpies winning 5-1 in the final day the season before last. That was a strange game, though, with Newcastle already relegated and Tottenham seemingly shattered by their failure to chase down Leicester. Newcastle also won 2-1 at White Hart Lane that season having lost both games against Spurs the campaign before. Tottenham’s record at St James’ is poor, though, with just one win in their past seven visits.

 

TOTTENHAM’S RIGHT

If Tripper does miss out, that presumably means Kyle Walker-Peters coming in for his first Premier League start (although Eric Dier could, perhaps, be pushed into emergency service at right-back).

Although the 20-year-old, who was part of England’s Under-20 World Cup-winning team, clearly has promise, his inexperience makes him a potential weak link. That’s of particular significance given he’s likely to be up against Christian Atsu, who has impressed enough in pre-season that he looks likely to get the nod to start ahead of the new signing Jacob Murphy and Ronaldo Aarons.

 

NEWCASTLE’S STRIKER PROBLEMS

Aleksandar Mitrovic has had an up and down time at Newcastle but with Daryl Murphy sold and no replacement forthcoming as yet, it seems likely that he will start up front for Newcastle on Sunday, with Ayoze Perez drifting behind him. Mitrovic scored and was sent off against Spurs on the final day in 2015-16 and he could be the beneficiary if Atsu does win space on the left – or if Matt Ritchie, who excelled against Verona, has the beating of Ben Davies on the right. Even if the delivery is good, though, it’s entirely possible that Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, probably the best central defensive pairing in the league last season, will dominate in the air.


SPURS’ CREATORS

On Saturday, Tottenham played a fluid attacking midfield trident of Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. It worked well enough, but it’s not a trio that offers much in the way of attacking width. Given how Javier Manquillo and Paul Dummett seek to get forward, that also presents Spurs with some defensive issues: they have to find a way of pinning those full-backs in, and preventing them from linking up with Ritchie and Atsu. Given the inexperience at right-back, it’s particularly important that Atsu isn’t able to isolate Walker-Peters. It’s a game in which Son would have been ideal, but it seems unlikely that he will be fit enough after fracturing his arm playing for South Korea in June. Then again, it may be that Tottenham dominate possession to such an extent that such concerns are academic. Certainly given the respective midfields, Spurs should expect to boss the ball.

 

VERDICT

There are reasons for Newcastle to be optimistic, certain areas of doubt that they may be able to exploit. Even with the concerns over the relationship between Benitez and Ashley, St James’ is likely to be noisy and expectant at this stage of the season. Newcastle are temptingly long. But the fact is that this is an excellent Spurs side and even with a number of injury doubts, it should have too much for the home team. Backing low-scoring away wins is probably the way to go.