The chance to move into the top three this weekend will be all too clear to Andre Villas-Boas as he prepares to step up his ‘keep Gareth Bale’ quest. The Tottenham boss conceded this week that the only way of ensuring the Welsh winger remains in North London is to deliver the Champions League he craves. Eight goals in his last 11 Premier League games, including the stunning winner at West Brom on week, only serves to illustrate his importance to the club. Villas-Boas is well aware that Spurs need to keep their current run of form going if he is to secure a top-four finish and will hope his side can avenge the 2-1 defeat against Newcastle in August, his first game in charge, and replicate the 5-0 thumping handed out in last seasons corresponding fixture.
Alan Pardew, meanwhile, will be formulating plans to lock Bale down in North London and mastermind a third straight league success for his rejuvenated Newcastle side. Saturday’s enthralling late victory over Chelsea gave the Magpies their first back-to-back wins this season and eased any fears that they could get sucked into a relegation dogfight. It was also the first time Pardew’s men had come from behind in over two years, thanks in no part to three of his five French signings in the January transfer window. Moussa Sissoko’s impact has certainly been felt and Pardew will be relying on last weeks two-goal hero to break Newcastle’s three game scoreless drought at White Hart Lane, while fellow cross channel recruit Mathieu Debuchy will more than likely be called upon to keep an eye on Bale.
Tottenham will be without Jermaine Defoe after he injured his ankle in the win at West Brom, while fellow forward Emmanuel Adebayor has returned to White Hart Lane from the African Cup of Nations but requires a fitness assessment.
Newcastle are still without Hatem Ben Arfa but do welcome back Cheick Tiote after the Ivory Coast were beaten by Nigeria.
What the managers said this week…
“I think (qualifying will secure his future at Spurs). This is where most of the clubs want to be, and where most of the players want to play. Gareth’s future is intimately related to what the objectives that we achieve for the season. Hopefully qualifying for the Champions League means we can attract better players and continue to hold on to our best players. It is difficult for other teams with the economic situation as it is to buy a player of this dimension.” Andre Villas-Boas believes Spurs’ hopes of keeping Gareth Bale rest on securing a top-four place (London Evening Standard)
“It’s rare in football to have the position that even with the results I’ve had, the message from upstairs was that I was going to be retained as manager. Perhaps our fans weren’t quite as happy about that at the time, but I have to try and reward the club for the backing the gave me now. So far, we’ve got two great results and we have to build on that. We haven’t been good enough and we’ve been saying that. Now we think we have got a team that’s good enough and we have to back it up with results.” Alan Pardew says he never feared the sack at Newcastle (Sky Sports)
Newcastle haven’t managed a clean sheet in their last 16 meetings with Tottenham since a 4-0 win in December 2003, while Spurs have won the last three at White Hart Lane, scoring eight times without reply.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Newcastle United