For the very first game of the season tomorrow at St. James’ Park between Newcastle and Tottenham, both sides seem to have injury problems and it’s difficult to know what the starting elevens will be.
Tottenham’s new manager Andre Villas-Boas will hope he fares better than he did at Chelsea a year ago, when he finally was sacked by Romain Abramaovich in early March, and then Roberto Matteo took the side to a European Champions victory at Bayern Munich and an FA Cup win against hapless Liverpool.
But Tottenham have lost some of their big players over the summer, with Luka Modrich finally about to move to Real Madrid, and he will not play tomorrow, and Emmanuel Adebayor is no longer on loan at the London club.
For Newcastle we have a number of injury concerns and lack of match practice with our top stars and they include Hatem Ben Arfa, who has picked up a knee injury and will not play tomorrow or on Thursday in Greece.
Cheick Tiote is recovering from a slight calf injury but he should start tomorrow, but both Senegal strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are still doubtful, and there will be last minute fitness tests for them, but Yohan Cabaye is short of match fitness and is unlikely to start, although he could be on the bench.
And Alan Pardew will need to decide if he starts new boy Vurnon Anita from Ajax, who has already looked impressive in training.
We’ll assume only that Ben Arfa and Sammy Ameobi are not fit and that Yohan Cabaye is not match fit, so with those assumptions here’s the team we think will start tomorrow:
Simpson Taylor (S) Coloccini (c) Santon
Taylor (R) Tiote Gosling Gutierrez
Demba Ba Cisse
Subs Harper Perch Williamson Anita Cabaye Marveaux Ameobi
It’s hard to find even places on the bench for some good Newcastle players, but players like Obertan, Tavernier, Abeid, Vuckic, Amalfitano and Bigirimana will start next Thursday in Athens against Atromitos in the Europa League.
We’ve included Ryan Taylor on the right wing, which is probably his best position, so we have him for the corners, and for free kicks and even for his long throw-ins.
We have new boy Vurnon Anita on the bench, but it’s almost certain he will make his debut tomorrow.
That’s a very strong bench for tomorrow, and Yohan Cabaye could get some playing time tomorrow afternoon, in the late kick-off game.
For Spurs, Gareth Bale is a doubt after suffering a knock during Wales’ 2-0 defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday night, but we think he will play.
Luka Modric is expected to be left out of the squad and has not played in pre-season after he foolishly refused to go on tour in the US earlier this summer.
New boys Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson are likely to make their debuts, and both are excellent players, but former Newcastle midfielder and captain Scott Parker is out with an Achilles injury, after having an operation to repair the damage.
Danny Rose is serving the second game of a three-match ban after he was sent off in the second last game of last season against Aston Villa.
This is the 147th match between the two clubs and the 135th in the league and the game is the late kick off game and starts at 5:30 pm local time.
And of course – dare I mention it – the last time we played Spurs we were hammered 5-0 at White Hart Lane, and it was one of those games Newcastle keep having, when they simply don’t turn up for the game.
But in the same fixture last year we got a good 2-2 draw with a fantastic late equalizer from Shola Ameobi, who should see some playing time tomorrow, and has looked good in pre-season.
Newcastle will be hoping to get another good start to the season as we did last year, when we won seven of the first 11 games and drew the other four, to pick up a terrific 25 points from those first 11 games.
We will be happy enough tomorrow even with a draw, after last week’s 4-1 defeat at Cardiff City, when we looked simply awful in those first 30 minutes of the game, but a win would be great and give the lads some much needed confidence at the start of the season.
Howay The Lads!!