Just as last year, Newcastle open their season with a tricky home game against North London opposition. This year however the expectation is bigger, and the pressure is on. Tottenham present a good bench mark for us, Spurs occupied the position last year which is our ambitious yet ultimately achievable target.
Tottenham have spent money this summer, we have not. Instead we have so far kept to Pardiola’s trusted formula of well budgeted young signings. So far this summer the Magpies have captured Romain Amalfitano, Gael Bigirimana, and Curtis Good. Amalfitano is a French midfielder signed from the Ligue 2 champions, Bigirimana a promising midfielder bought from Coventry, and Good an Australian central defender who has transferred from the A-League. All three are young, all three are unproven, and all three could be bought with pocket money. No longer the Newcastle of a few years ago it seems, and all the better for it.
Tottenham hold the dubious honour of being one of the few teams that the Toon managed to beat in their ill fated relegation season. However since Damian Duff’s last minute winner we have only managed home draws and away losses, peaking with last season’s 5-0 spanking accompanied with resounding choruses of “(Harry Redknapp) We want you to stay.” During the same game I decided Papiss Cisse was shit. It’s fair to say quite a bit has changed.
Cisse is a doubt for the season’s opener, suffering from a knee problem along with Hatem Ben Arfa. Other injury doubts are Demba Ba, Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote. If Tottenham fail to beat a Newcastle side without all of these players then they will never deserve a Champions League spot. With any three of the doubtful players fit Newcastle are a tasty side, and could cause ninety minutes of AVB performing his touchline impression of a philosopher squeezing out a particularly important shite
Pardew claimed after the pre-season loss at Cardiff that he expected Cisse to be back this week and that Cabaye should be “up to speed” by Saturday. A fit Cabaye is too good to leave out, though Pardew did sound pretty certain that Ben Arfa would have no part to play. Ben Arfa’s countryman Sylvain Marveaux could fill in for the Parisian magician.
Newcastle’s obvious weakness is at right back. Danny Simpson is a trier, yet he can easily be taken by pace or a small element of skill. Newcastle’s very public courting of Debuchy is proof of a lack of prowess in this position. Tottenham’s wide men often make easy work of Newcastle fullbacks and I expect this weekend to be no different.
Despite aforementioned doubts I am predicting a fairly optimistic starting line up of; Krul, Santon, S.Taylor, Coloccini, Simpson, Jonas, Tiote, Cabaye, Marveaux, Cisse and Shola.
I am anticipating an entertaining game and my prediction has evolved (or rather devolved) over the last week into another score draw.
By Simon Meechan.