Newcastle United host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday lunchtime in their first game back in the top flight after a season-long sabbatical in England’s second division.
The season culminated with captain Jamaal Lascelles holding aloft the Championship title while David Stockdale had to be comforted some 170 miles down the A1 at Villa Park, having let a Jack Grealish strike squirm under his body for the Seagulls to concede in the 89th minute and hand the title to Tyneside.
Spurs on the other hand once again ended up trophy-less, a run which stretches nine years since they won the League Cup, but were in and around the mix at the top of the table as they put pressure on the eventual league winners – Chelsea.
Newcastle go into the game with an eerie atmosphere hanging over St. James’ Park. In the boardroom, all doesn’t seem right as manager Rafa Benitez uses every media opportunity to criticise the club’s lack of spending this summer.
They have however spent over a reported £30m; with Christian Atsu, Florian Lejuene, Javier Manquillo and Jacob Murphy all joining the Magpies – while Mikel Merino joined on loan from Borussia Dortmund.
All the new boys are expected to be in contention to start, while the only injury concerns is right-back DeAndre Yedlin (hamstring) and Dwight Gayle. Gayle, also suffering with a hamstring problem, has missed the last two friendlies which has resulted in Aleksandar Mitrovic being the main contender to start up top.
Spurs on the other hand are in a potentially more intriguing situation. Surprisingly no-one has joined the club while right-back Kyle Walker has departed to title rivals Manchester City for a fee in the £50m region. This has only been exacerbated by deputy Kieran Trippier picking up an ankle injury against Juventus which will see him miss the game.
On the other flank, much has been said in the press this week by Danny Rose, who has issued an apology having initially vented his frustrations at the wage structure imposed by Daniel Levy. The one thing that is certain is that Rose will miss the game with a knee injury.
Apart from that, Spurs are full strength in a game which is tentatively poised with uncertainty surrounding both camps, which is all the more intensified by the fact Newcastle are looking for their third consecutive win over the Lilywhites for the first time in a decade.
Written by Oliver Stevenson.