4th place Spurs host 9th place Newcastle as the Premier League season enters its formative months. Despite being widely castigated for an unattractive brand of football under Portuguese hotshot manager Andre Villas-Boas, yet the Lilywhites reside in the Champions League places.
You would require multiple hands to count the number of attacking players who have supposedly underperformed, yet 6 wins in 10 league games, having only lost 4 times since December 10th 2012, suggests that Spurs are doing just about OK. On Sunday, the Geordies come to town, in indifferent form, having lost at the Stadium of Light but reigning victorious over Chelsea. Below are the player battles that may decide the outcome.
Roberto Soldado v Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
The youthful French centre-back has come in for widespread criticism this season after a series of poor performances culminated in a red card for a sloppy tackle on Luis Suarez, with fans and pundits alike claiming that he is simply not up to the standard of the Premier League. Spurs’ £26m striker has also been questioned by the media, with claims that he doesn’t do anything other than score. As such, both players have a point to prove, but Soldado is reliant on his team-mates; without the ball, even Messi wouldn’t be able to score. If the Spaniard gets the service he requires and deserves, then Mapou the Magpie will have to be attentive, as the ex-Valencia frontman is a canny footballer.
Hatem Ben Arfa v Jan Vertonghen
Our Belgian Rolls Royce can’t take anything for granted as his next assignment is an explosive French winger in the colours of Newcastle. Vertonghen was deservedly named man of the match against Everton after a cultured and composed display, but Ben Arfa will pose a different threat; he is known for his snapshots of brilliance and his wonder goals. With the Frenchman having scored 11 goals in 58 games for the Magpies, he is always a threat but the full-back also provides offensive impetus – HBA will need to track back and be disciplined.
Paulinho v Yohan Cabaye
It’s the battle of the box-to-box midfielders as £17m ex-Corinthians midfielder takes on an ex-Lille midfielder in the personal match-up that could prove decisive at the Lane on Sunday. The Brazilian has come in for criticism in recent weeks after a weak, jaded performance at Goodison, but a rest this week will do him good and he should be raring to go and eager to make amends at the weekend. Cabaye has been the figurehead of an inconsistent Newcastle side, dictating affairs from the centre of midfield and throwing in the occasional wonder goal to boot.
Whilst Newcastle enter the game on the back of a win at home to Chelsea, Spurs go into the match on a 5 match unbeaten run in all competitions (sure to be made 6 after Sheriff are duly dispatched). The last meeting between these sides ended in a 2-1 victory for the Lilywhites, with G***** B*** netting a brace for Tottenham.
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