Last season’s Premier League fourth and fifth placed sides go head-to-head on Saturday, as Tottenham travel to take on Newcastle in the campaign opener. Both sides will look to break the monopoly of the bigger teams once more this term, with Champions League qualification the holy grail.
Newcastle surpassed all expectations last term with their doggedness and refusal to give up a potential top four spot. In the end the Champions League eluded them, but Alan Pardew’s men will continue to prove a tough opponent for all-comers to Tyneside in 2012-13.
The Magpies’ main threat is Senegalese strike partnership Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, who set the division alight last term with their exhilarating skill and eye for goal. Ba bagged 16 goals in an excellent first season at the club, whilst Cisse scored 13 times in 13 games after joining in January. Spurs must be wary of the danger posed by the African duo.
Newcastle have been relatively muted in the transfer market this summer, with French midfielder Romain Amalfitano the only name of note to be added to Alan Pardew’s contingent. However, Ajax midfielder Vernun Anita is set to switch to the Geordies if personal terms are agreed, and Newcastle fans will hope to get a glimpse of their new man in this fixture.
It is all change at Tottenham, as Andre Villas-Boas has replaced Harry Redknapp in the White Hart Lane hotseat. The Portuguese trainer has been backed with funds to spend, and has duly brought Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen and Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson to north London; both are expected to debut in this fixture.
The main news surrounding Spurs this summer has been the Luka Modric transfer saga, with the Croatia international linked with a move to Real Madrid. It is believed that a deal for the playmaker to switch to the Spanish giants is close, but Modric will not feature even if a transfer is not concluded in time.
In attack Spurs have been frustrated in the transfer market, with moves for Emmanuel Adebayor, Leandro Damiao and others failing to come to fruition. As such Jermain Defoe is the only out-and-out forward at the club, and fresh from scoring for England in midweek should lead the line for the visitors.
This should be an exciting and close game. The equivalent last season ended 2-2, and there is every chance that a draw could be on cards here. My pick in this game is a 1-1 draw.