Tottenham v Newcastle United
Sunday December 13, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports
After a catalogue of near-misses when it comes to Champions League qualification, Spurs fans know they are moving into dangerous territory, because their team actually looks the real deal this season. In a campaign where even the most stardust-packed squads can't get their acts together on a regular basis, Tottenham's run of one defeat in 15 Premier League games is impressive stuff. If you also consider that Spurs comfortably topped their Europa League group as they booked a place in the last 32, it's all looking rather rosy.
Coach Mauricio Pochettino deserves huge credit. He has stuck to his gameplan even when results haven't been that impressive, and he has used his resources effectively to juggle domestic and continental demands. Spurs haven't lost in the league since a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on the opening day, and even that was a very unlucky reverse. Spurs are on their best unbeaten run in the top flight since 1985, and if they avoid defeat on Sunday it'll be their best sequence since 1978.
It's also worth giving chairman Daniel Levy some credit. Although he has sometimes done the club a disservice with bouts of paralysis in the transfer market, you'd struggle to argue that Spurs don't now have a fine squad. Players dismissed by some as flops are starting to settle down, and Erik Lamela continued his fine progress this term with a maiden hat-trick against Monaco on Thursday in a 4-1 win.
Spurs are unbeaten at home in the league, with four wins and four draws, and in the last five EPL games at White Hart Lane they have managed 4-1 demolitions of Manchester City and West Ham, and a 3-1 victory against Aston Villa. Spurs have been pretty solid defensively on home soil - they haven't conceded more than one goal in a home game since a 2-2 draw against Stoke in mid-August.
After a slow start in front of goal, the excellent Harry Kane has rediscovered his scoring touch. The England international has netted nine goals in his last nine appearances for the Lilywhites.
Even the most ardent Magpies fan couldn't have anticipated Newcastle's 2-0 win over Liverpool last weekend, and although the Reds were bafflingly inept on the day, Steve McClaren's men exploited the situation well. The outstanding Giorginio Wijnaldum was responsible for both goals, and if it wasn't for the Dutchman's seven goals and two assists in the Premier League, Newcastle would be in even deeper trouble.
McClaren has talked of fight and attitude in the lead-up to this fixture, but they also need structure, and that tactical nous has been lacking all too often. Deficiencies in discipline and strategy are often exposed on the road, and Opta tell us that Newcastle have won just one of their last 14 Premier League away games, conceding 35 goals and scoring just five in the process.
Despite their heroics against Liverpool, Newcastle go into this weekend in the bottom three. For all of McClaren's protestations about the quality of his squad, it's worth noting that both of the Magpies' previous victories in the Premier League this season have been immediately followed by a 3-0 defeat.
Newcastle are chasing a third straight win at Spurs for the first time since 1911, but without the injured Cheick Tiote I think they will struggle to contain an excellent Tottenham midfield, and the hosts are full of confidence. Kane, Lamela and wily string-puller Christian Eriksen could have a field day against a porous Magpies rearguard, and I don't think Newcastle have the fortitude or the gameplan to put up much resistance.
Spurs are prohibitively short at 1.392/5, but three of their four Premier League home wins have come via a margin of two goals or greater, and I'm happy to back them -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.0621/20.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Eight of the last nine meetings between the sides have featured at least three goals, so you may be tempted to back overs at 1.635/8. If you want reasons to back unders at a hefty 2.56/4, then consider that Newcastle have scored just three goals in seven away games, while Spurs have only conceded five goals in eight home matches.
Back Spurs -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.0621/20