Antonio Conte is once again without the services of Dejan Kulusevski for what will be the seventh successive game, whilst fellow attacker Richarlison has joined him on the treatment table, as revealed by The Athletic.
The Italian is, therefore, likely to remain with the 3-5-2 system he used in Wednesday’s frustrating 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Emerson Royal is back from suspension, though Matt Doherty has done more than enough to warrant the starting spot at right wing-back but there should still be a defensive change as that’s where Spurs looked most woeful against the Red Devils.
The trio of Eric Dier, Cristian Romero and Ben Davies were pretty abysmal and a similar sort of display would result in another failure as the Magpies are a side that Conte views as fierce competition in the race for a top-four finish, as he claimed during his pre-game press conference.
“We have a tough game against a team that is in a good period of form. Newcastle drew at United, played a good game, then won against Everton. They’ve started very well and at this moment, they want to be a protagonist in the Premier League. For sure, in the present [and] the future, they will be a danger for everyone,” the 53-year-old said.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what changes the Italian head coach will make. It seems viable that FC Barcelona loanee Clement Lenglet comes in for Davies, considering he is the more natural centre-back and is a far greater prospect on the ball.
Despite being lauded as a “reliable” option by the Lilywhites boss, the Wales international trails the Frenchman for passing accuracy, as per WhoScored, whilst FBref highlight further defensive attributes in which the 27-year-old also leads the way – including successful tackles, successful pressures, blocks and interceptions per 90.
Newcastle travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on the back of three wins in four outings and in two of those, they netted a whopping nine goals. For context, Conte’s men have found the net seven times in their last six matches in all competitions, so it’s clear that Eddie Howe’s side pose a threat in the final third.
Indeed, the northeast giants are fourth for total shots per game (15.3) – ahead of Spurs (13.9) – and have scored the fourth-highest number of goals from open play (12) – also ahead of Spurs (nine) – in the Premier League this campaign, via WhoScored.
As such, Davies could get eaten up by the goalscoring exploits of Callum Wilson or the commanding physical presence of Chris Wood.
That is why a more solid switch at centre-back must happen this afternoon, so for Conte, it is surely an easy, albeit brutal, decision to ditch his £80k-per-week regular – who Bundesliga statistician Ben Griffis once dubbed a “beast of a player” – in favour of Lenglet, who is just the better fit for the system, this game and the position today.
It could prove to be the game-changing spark that Spurs need to get back on track in N17.