Newcastle Club Focus - National pride at stake for England hopefuls
Newcastle face another examination of their European credentials when they face Tottenham on Saturday evening. Up to now both sides have enjoyed excellent seasons and have exceeded expectations in their performances. The match has taken on an even greater intrigue following the departure of England Coach Fabio Capello. The respective managers are the highest performing English candidates in the league although are at very different stages of their careers. Harry Redknapp is the outstanding candidate to take over from Fabio Capello following his acquittal in a recent court case. Alan Pardew has been seen as an outside contender for the job although his odds have drifted in the past few days and he has declared himself out of the running.
Pardew has a number of injury problems to contend with as he looks to plot his team’s first victory in the capital this season. Leon Best and Ryan Taylor were both substituted early against Aston Villa to add to his problems. Best will be out for several weeks after a scan revealed knee ligament damage while Taylor is suffering from tissue damage in his leg. With Yohan Cabaye set to complete the final part of his three match ban Pardew is likely to stick with combination of Danny Guthrie and James Perch. Few fans would have expected the duo to be playing together at all this season although they both performed well against Aston Villa. Perch in particular has exceeded expectations and there are signs he is becoming more comfortable playing at the top level. With the Ivory Coast qualifying for the African Cup of Nations final Cheik Tiote will not be available.
One of the manager’s biggest decisions will be whether to gamble and play two forwards or try to keep the match tight. Given Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse explosive start to their new partnership it would be hard to leave either striker out. Tottenham have been strong at both ends of the field this campaign and boast one of the strongest midfields in the league, probably where Newcastle are weakest at the moment. When the two sides met earlier this season they drew 2-2 in an entertaining game.
It remains to be seen whether Hatem Ben Arfa will be involved after he failed to make an appearance against Aston Villa. With the right wing spot vacant Gabriel Obertan may get the nod due to his higher work ethic, even though he does not possess the skill of Ben Arfa. Pardew has once again challenged the enigmatic Frenchman to deliver. He told the Shields Gazette: “Hatem still hasn't quite grasped, in my opinion, this Premier League. He's got unbelievable talent, but he's not used to it. He's got to fight now to get in this team. He could still have a massive impact on this season, but we need to see him at his best. He isn't out of the picture yet."
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