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The Big Match Tactical View: Newcastle v Tottenham

Can Rafael Benitez hide the weaknesses in Newcastle's defence?
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The Premier League's first Sunday game of the season pits Newcastle against Tottenham. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, Alan Thompson focuses on the betting...


"Tottenham’s problem, of course, is their lack of depth which means their current injury problems are causing Mauricio Pochettino something of a headache"

Newcastle v Tottenham
Sunday, 13:30
Live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Newcastle [5.5], Tottenham [1.74], The Draw [4.1].


While two of 2017/18's newly-promoted sides, Huddersfield and Brighton, are entirely new to the Premier League, there's also the welcome return of one of England's biggest clubs. Few teams have provided as much excitement as Newcastle United during the 25 years of the Premier League - it remains to be seen, however, how much entertainment they'll offer this time around.

Tottenham, meanwhile, were arguably the most thrilling side in the Premier League last season, and while they start this campaign under something of a cloud - no new signings, Danny Rose's recent comments to the media - they remain arguably the most cohesive side in the Premier League and should expect to start with a victory in their longest away trip of the league campaign.


Tottenham injuries


Tottenham's problem, of course, is their lack of depth which means their current injury problems - Rose, Erik Lamala and Kieran Trippier are all out, with Son Heung-min and Victor Wanyama also doubtful - are causing Mauricio Pochettino something of a headache. Indeed, such are his limited options he has barely any selection dilemmas this weekend, and essentially just needs to decide what formation to play.

That formation seems more likely to be a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, rather than the three-man defence which often worked well last season. Spurs don't seem to have the wing-back options to play that system, and therefore Eric Dier is likely to fill in at right-back, with Ben Davies playing on the left of the four-man defence. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld remains the best centre-back pairing in the country.

In midfield, the absence of Wanyama and Dier's deployment in defence means Harry Winks seems likely to start alongside Mousa Dembele. Winks generally appeared from the bench last season but impressed with his quick feet and positive passing range, while Dembele is as good as anyone at bypassing a midfield press with a quick slalom.

In the final third, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen will be Harry Kane's closest support, with Moussa Sissoko likely to start on the right of midfield. Hardly the most popular player amongst Spurs fans, the reality is that Pochettino doesn't have many other options, aside from fielding Vincent Janssen and deploying Kane in a number 10 role.


Newcastle unbalanced


Newcastle have a peculiar-looking side, with plenty of promising attacking options but an unconvincing defensive section - Rafael Benitez will need all his coaching expertise to ensure the back four are protected properly, or else Newcastle could find themselves shipping plenty of goals.

The forward duo of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez might have been both present when Newcastle were relegated two seasons ago, but it's a promising, talented 'big man, little man' combination that could cause teams real problems. Mitrovic is a handful on his day and excellent in the air, while Perez offers technical quality, invention and darting runs.

They should be supported by Christian Atsu, a speedy option down the left, and Matt Ritchie, who offers moments of magic but hasn't yet demonstrated he can take his Championship form to the Premier League, after an inconsistent top-flight season with Bournemouth.

In midfield, Jonjo Shelvey makes things happen - in both good and bad ways - while Isaac Hayden is an underrated, dependable midfield operator, but might find himself struggling to contain the movement of Alli and Eriksen here.


Kane likely to get chances


The centre-back combination of Ciaran Clark and newcomer Florian Lejeune offers plenty of height, but it's difficult to see them keeping Kane entirely quiet. Javier Manquillo and Paul Dummett will tuck inside and protect them closely, but it would be a huge surprise to see a clean sheet for the home side here.

I can't see Spurs having too many problems against this Newcastle side. Backing Spurs to be ahead at half-time and full-time looks a good bet at around the [2.9] mark.


The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Newcastle should be up for this in front of a sold out St James' Park where even during their relegation season they managed to get some decent results when the Premier League elite visited, drawing with Chelsea and Manchester City, beating Liverpool and Tottenham and only losing narrowly 1-0 to Arsenal.

Despite the incredible away form Spurs showed at the end of last season, the price for them to win this [1.75] looks a little short to me. While they have had some tough starts to their campaigns recently, in their last seven away days in August, they have only won two (West Ham 2014 and Crystal Palace 2013).

No doubt, Pochettino's men are by far the better side and I expect them to have another good campaign. But if they are a little slow out of the traps then they could struggle to beat the Magpies in this season opener and at [1.75] I am a layer.

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