18 August 2012

Premier League Day 1 - Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur

The Premier League is back and this is the day that football fans all over the country have been waiting for. With seven games on show today there will be plenty of excitement and goals to talk about. Arsenal host Sunderland and new boys Reading and West Ham are both in action on their top-flight return. Managers Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool), Chris Hughton (Norwich City), Michael Laudrup (Swansea City), Steve Clarke (West Brom) and Paul Lambert (Aston Villa) take control of their respective sides for the first time. However the pick of the day has to be the late kick-off at St James' Park between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, last season's fifth and fourth place finishers.

Newcastle surprised many last season as they went the first ten matches unbeaten before losing 3-1 at eventual champions Manchester City. Spurs on the other hand stormed out of the blocks and at one point looked to be mounting a serious title challenge before faltering during the back end of the season to finish fourth, missing out on a Champions League spot as a result of Chelsea's win in that competition. Both clubs will have ambitions of reaching Europe's elite tournament this year but Newcastle will once again be outsiders. It is not expected that Spurs will reach the top four but they are definitely in with a shout after finishing there twice in the last three seasons.

The Magpies have not made any marquee signings this summer but have secured the arrivals of mid-fielders Romain Amalfitano and GaĆ«l Bigirimana while Sylvain Marveux will return from a long injury absence. Spurs have brought in Icelandic centre midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson who impressed while on loan at Swansea City during the second half of last season. Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen has joined from Ajax but new boss Andre Villas-Boas will be desperate to sign a striker before the transfer window closes. For this match he only has one senior striker to pick, Jermain Defoe, but he has hinted that he is looking to include young forward Harry Kane this season.

Last campaign this fixture finished as a 2-2 draw after a brilliant late equaliser by Geordie favourite Shola Ameobi. Once again this term he will not be the focal point of their attack and this mantle will fall on Senegalese pair Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba who both hit double figures in the league last season. French winger Hatem Ben Arfa will be the man tasked with providing the deliveries for the top two and he flourished towards the back end of last year. 

This match should be closely-fought in front of a home crowd that will be as over-expectant as ever this season. Newcastle have a good side, as do Spurs, but as the London club have yet to sign a striker and with  Luka Modric destined to leave, Pardew's men may just pip them this time out. 

Prediction: 2-1 Newcastle United

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