18th August 2012
Newcastle aim to get revenge on Tottenham for losing the top 4 race last season and at the same time gain an early advantage over their rivals for Champions League berths. Spurs, on the other hand, embark on a new era under Andre Villas-Boas and there are no doubts they will be looking for victory at Sports Direct Arena.
Last season was a huge success for Newcastle even if they ended up missing out on the top 4 finish, but the mere fact the Magpies finished the league campaign above Champions League winners Chelsea speaks volumes about their showings. The most important thing is that key players now believe that they can compete for honours at St James Park, which has helped the club keep hold of star players Cisse, Cabaye, Tiote and Ben Arfa despite heavy interest from big European clubs. The club management have once again done a great job in the transfer market, getting rid of fringe players Best, Guthrie, Lovenkrands and Smith, while signing several very talented footballers in Vurnon Anita, Curtis Good, Romain Amalfitano and Gael Bigirimana. Newcastle were far from impressive in pre-season games, winning just one of five fixtures, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Magpies will struggle at the start of the Premier League campaign. The problem is that Papiss Cisse, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba are all injury doubts, which could see new signing Vurnon Anita start the game in midfield. Fabricio Coloccini has shaken off a minor knock, whereas Steven Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux are available after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Harry Redknapp’s departure at the end of last season signaled the end of one of the most successful periods in club’s recent history, so it goes without saying that new boss Andre Villas-Boas will have his work cut out for him. The club chiefs have done brilliantly to sign Jav Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who are both expected to develop into key players at White Hart Lane, but they are still waiting for Luka Modric to complete his move to Real Madrid so that they could finally bring a world-class centre forward to the side. Villas-Boas now has just Jermain Defoe, Giovani dos Santos and Harry Kane in attack, so no wonder he is set to play 4-2-3-1 this season. The Portuguese manager is without Luka Modric, Scott Parker and Heurelho Gomes, meaning that Sandro is likely to start despite missing the entire pre-season training because of his involvement at the Olympic Games. Tom Huddestone is fit again and he could partner the Brazilian in the centre of the park, while Rafa van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon and Gylfi Sigurdsson are vying for two places in the attacking midfield, one being reserved for Gareth Bale.
We would all like to see an enthralling encounter between two attack-minded sides, but this being the first game of the season and with both sides short of options up front, that is hardly going to be the case. It is for that reason that my advice is to bet on under 2.5 goals.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 19/20