The speculation regarding Christian Eriksen’s future continues to be the main talking point around north London as Tottenham Hotspur look to build on a valuable road point at home Sunday versus a Newcastle United side yet to steady themselves under new boss Steve Bruce.
(Potential Starting XIs)
Eriksen is in the final year of his current deal with the Lilywhites (1-1-0), and his value with a potential move will never be higher than it is now ahead of the Sept. 2 close of the European transfer window. The Denmark international is constantly rumoured to be Real Madrid’s fallback option if Los Blancos are unable to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United, but the other half of such a move is how it could thwart Spurs’ ambitions both domestically and in Europe.
“There are a lot of rumours and how the rumours affect the squad is always a problem for a team like us,” Pochettino said at his Friday news conference without specifically referencing Eriksen. “We need to find our dynamic, it is a little bit of a shame, but like I have said before, we need to be positive, I am positive, we have experience of trying to create that positive dynamic.
“We are going to be competitive, it is not the best situation to work in but we have to accept that. We cannot change the situation now. We cannot be negative, we can only be positive and find the positive things from all of this mess.”
When on his game, Eriksen forms a dangerous underneath option to Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, and Lucas Moura and a creative partnership in the attacking midfield with Dele Alli. Son and Alli have yet to feature this term, with Son completing a three-match ban for a red card late last term and Alli nursing a hamstring injury that has him touch-and-go to be among the 18 this weekend.
Pochettino definitely has a selection dilemma on his hands with Son and Moura considering the South Korea international enjoyed a breakout 2018-19 with 20 goals in all competitions. Moura, though, also has made a solid case for inclusion in the first XI after scoring a smash-and-grab equaliser immediately off the bench as Tottenham nicked a point of two-time champions Manchester City last weekend with a 2-2 draw at the Etihad.
“He has trained hard to try to keep fit and try to improve in certain areas,” Pochettino said about Son. “It’s good because he’s increased the competition in the squad. We have a lot of offensive players now and that’s very good news for the team.”
Record £55 million signing Tanguy Ndombele has been ruled out of this contest with a thigh injury, but Juan Foyth – who also finished serving a three-match ban for a red card last term – is available for depth in the midfield. Pochettino is likely to continue using Giovani Lo Celso off the bench until he is match fit, and fellow summer signing Ryan Sessegnon remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.
This match will also be Pochettino’s 500th as a manager that included stops at Espanyol and Southampton.
Newcastle United (0-0-2) are still adjusting to Bruce’s three-man backline, but the lack of offence is also an early concern. The Magpies were sorely outclassed 3-1 at promoted Norwich City last week, with Jonjo Shelvey’s stoppage-time marker barely a consolation as the first goal of the term.
The slow start has added to the anxieties surrounding the club that persisted all summer while Bruce’s predecessor Rafa Benitez went back-and-forth on signing a new deal with the club before taking over Dalian Yifang in the Chinese Super League.
On Friday, Bruce lashed out at ex-Newcastle player and current radio pundit Michael Chopra, who claimed some players on the team told him they did not know what their roles are since Bruce took over and implemented a 3-5-2 formation that he insisted he will not stray from for this match.
“I’m just surprised that people pay any attention to him. Some of the stuff is just fabricated and lies,” he told Football 365. “When it’s like that, you think, ‘Why is that making national headlines?’. It’s total rubbish.”
Bruce has raised some eyebrows with some of his selection choices, with last weekend’s decision to drop Sean Longstaff in favour of Song-Yung Ki the most recent example. The club has promoted the 21-year-old Longstaff as one of their cornerstones and valued him at £50 million over the summer to scare away the “Big Six” from poaching him.
Newcastle’s attacking pair of Miguel Almiron and summer signing Joelinton have yet to fire, with Joelinton registering the only shot on target in 337 minutes between them.
The Lilywhites have done the double over Newcastle the last two seasons and recorded a 1-0 victory in last term’s corresponding fixture at Wembley where Son scored on 83 minutes.
Odds and Ends, per Ladbrokes
To Win: Tottenham Hotspur 1/4, Draw 9/2, Newcastle United 11/1
Both Teams to Score: Yes 11/10, No 4/6
Over/Under 2.5 Goals: Over 6/10, Under 6/5
First Goal Scorer Tottenham Hotspur: Kane 2/1; Son 7/2; Moura 4/1; Lamela, Lo Celso 5/1
First Goal Scorer Newcastle United: Gayle 9/1; Joelinton 10/1; Muto 11/1; Saint-Maximin 14/1
Anytime Goal Scorer Tottenham Hotspur: Kane 1/2; Son 11/10; Moura 5/4; Lamela 17/10; Lo Celso 7/4
Anytime Goal-Scorer Newcastle United: Gayle 3/1; Joelinton 10/3; Muto 7/2; Saint-Maximin 9/2; Almiron, Longstaff 5/1
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Tottenham Hotspur 4, Newcastle United 0.
PREDICTED HALFTIME SCORE: Tottenham Hotspur 3, Newcastle United 0.
PREDICTED FIRST GOAL-SCORER: Harry Kane.
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(Erik Lamela photo courtesy Tottenham Hotspur official Twitter account)