Thanks to Chelsea's raging incompetence, Tottenham Hotspur go into Tuesday's English Premier League fixture against Newcastle United with a chance to catapult themselves into a top four position, and therefore, a UEFA Champions League position. The Blues' loss to Arsenal leaves them only one point ahead of Spurs ahead of Tuesday's clash at White Hart Lane. Spurs will be favored at home, but Newcastle could prove to be a formidable opponent. Andy Carroll, a rumored Spurs transfer target, has been brilliant in the Magpies' last two matches against Manchester City and Liverpool and will be the focus of Tottenham's defense.
William Gallas, Ledley King, and Tom Huddlestone will continue to miss out for Spurs due to injury while Jermaine Defoe is out thanks to suspension. Martin Atkinson showed him a red card that was borderline at best for an elbow to the cranium of James Collins on Boxing Day, so Harry Redknapp will have to make due without his quickest striker and arguably his most clinical finisher. It's conceivable that we could see either Peter Crouch or Roman Pavlyuchenko up top, with both having obvious strengths and weaknesses. Pavlyuchenko is certainly the more complete of the two players, but there really is something to the whole "van der Vaart getting on the end of Crouch knockdowns" cliche.
I fear that, due to the team playing three games in seven days and another game four days later, we could have a Jermaine Jenas sighting. I guess his athletic ability and work rate could be useful against players like Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, but I'd really just prefer that he went away. Harry might also see this game as an opportunity to give Gareth Bale a quick rest since our next two matches are at Goodison Park against Everton and at home against Manchester United, so I wouldn't be stunned to see Luka Modric on the left and Bale on the bench. Supposedly Bale is a robot who never gets tired, but so were Kerry Wood and Mark Prior for the baseball fans in the house. I would rather not see Bale go the way of those players. It's also conceivable that Bale could start while Rafael van der Vaart sits, especially after all of the work that VDV did as a lone striker while we had 10 men against Aston Villa. I would be very surprised to see both of those players start tomorrow and against Everton. We need both of them fresh for the match against Manchester United.
Tactically, I doubt we'll see anything fancy from 'Arry and Alan Pardew. We could see Modric or VDV in front of Jenas and Wilson Palacios or we could see Harry opt for a 4-4-2 setup with Pavlyuchenko and Crouch up top together. Hey, in this weird run of games, maybe we'll even get sightings of Niko Krancjar, Robbie Keane...hell, maybe even Giovani Dos Santos. Alan Pardew has similar options. The above pictured Shola Ameobi isn't available, so Pardew will likely opt for a 4-4-1-1 setup with Nolan behind Carroll. Nile Ranger could make a start, but that seems unlikely. If both Crouch and Carroll are on the field, which seems likely, this game could have a very 'English' feel to it.
Despite our squad rotation and the talent of Carroll and company, I like our chances tomorrow at the Lane. Holding on for a win was a potentially big morale booster while Newcastle should be disappointed off the back of their loss to City, especially since they were the better team for at least half the game and only one of City's three goals came from some significant quality. Can we keep a clean sheet, though? Don't count on it.
Kickoff and Coverage: Tuesday, December 28th, 10 am ET. Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv
Projected Tottenham Hotspur lineup (4-4-1-1): Gomes / Assou-Ekotto, Dawson, Kaboul, Hutton / Bale, Jenas, Palacios, Lennon / Modric / Pavlyuchenko
Projected Newcastle United lineup (4-4-1-1): Krul / Enrique, Taylor, Coloccini, Simpson / Gutierrez, Barton, Tiote, Routledge / Nolan / Carroll
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Newcastle United