When Gareth Bale cut inside at the Hawthorns, bursting into space made available by the run of Lewis Holtby, he proceeded to unleash a stunning strike off his left foot that made Albion keeper Ben Foster little more than a spectator in his own net. As he has done eleven times this season so far, the Welshman had produced a moment of individual magic to score.
Bale has found a rich vein of form at a superb time, and Spurs will be looking to him again on Saturday to guide them past a resurgent Newcastle side. The Toon have won their last two in the league, and while one of those wins isn’t necessarily impressive as it came over the hapless Aston Villa, last weekend’s triumph over Chelsea was a more significant result. Alan Pardew’s January signings seem to have revitalized the team, and debutant French midfielder Moussa Sissoko put in a match-winning performance against the Blues.
Overall, Newcastle are an extraordinarily gifted team from a physical perspective. Gouffran and Sissoko can both run for days, and that kind of energy tends to translate to teammates over the course of a match. The presence of such hard runners in the middle of the park is offset by the guile of Cabaye, giving Newcastle’s midfield a great balance between defensive discipline and attacking prowess. Intriguingly, Spurs have also addressed the balance issue in their midfield, with the German Holtby linking the attack with the deeper lying physical presence of Parker and Dembele behind him. In the center of the field, this one looks to be an even battle.
Defensively, however, Newcastle have more cause for concern than Spurs. The Tottenham back line has looked solid of late, and Michael Dawson is in good form in the centre back role. Newcastle’s defense was rather haphazard against Chelsea, and while certainly not much could have been done about Mata’s sublime curler, Lampard’s goal was preventable if the defenders were quicker to close him down. Though still solid in goal, Tim Krul hasn’t really captured his form from last season, and his opposite number Lloris is currently in very good form for Spurs.
Where the game will be decided, however, is on the backs of each side’s real scoring threat. Papiss Cisse’s road back to form has been an arduous one this season, and while he has shown signs of life of late, he’s only scored twice in Newcastle’s last five games in the league. Contrast that form with Gareth Bale, who’s scored two goals in the last week alone, including the aforementioned match winner last weekend. On his day Bale is nigh impossible to stop, but Cisse can be too. It’s a matter of which one of the two turns up on Saturday. Hopefully for the fans and neutrals, they both do and a goal fest ensues.
Expect a pulsating match between a visiting side with nothing to lose and a home side in need of three more points to push on towards the top spots in the table. Bale should be given a more free role in the center by AVB as well, which could lead to some openings for the home side. Spurs tend to be pretty solid at the Lane, so I’m calling this one 2-1 to the home side, with Bale and Holtby proving to be the difference.
By: Mike Schmidt
Follow on Twitter @Schmidt_the_yid
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