Newcastle's relegation worries set to increase
Newcastle United host Tottenham Hotspur on Easter Sunday at St. James' Park in the Premier League, and it's fair to suggest that neither side's season has gone as well as they'd have expected. The trials and tribulations under José Mourinho are well-documented, as was the bitterly disappointing early exit from the Europa League. Where they had been topping the table domestically as recently as December, they are now an outside shot for the top four, and even their place in sixth is looking extremely precarious. Meanwhile, Steve Bruce's outfit are looking extremely precarious as the last team above the drop zone, and whilst Spurs have flattered to deceive, they should still have too much. Read our preview here:
You've really Dummett now
The problems, on the pitch at least, have been pretty obvious for fans and pundits to diagnose: the defence as a whole isn't too bad, but gets put under undue pressure; the midfield three/five offer little protection as a whole, and not much in the way of creativity towards the other end; there is far too much emphasis on a winger (like Alain Saint-Maximin, who's a doubt for Sunday) carrying the ball halfway up the pitch, and by then, they're either tired, outnumbered, or both. The Toon Army have also scored at a rate of fewer than one a game, and the full-backs are discouraged from getting high. Neither of the likely starters, Paul Dummett or Javier Manquillo, have a single assist to their name, and even their conservatism doesn't serve the team well.
Kaned and able
Harry Kane proved his worth once for England, netting the crucial opener from the penalty spot in their narrow qualification win over likely nearest rivals Poland. On Sunday, he'll be continuing his deep-lying forward role in a different white shirt, which should actually suit both the team's needs and that of his temporary partner, Vinicius. With Heung-min Son out for the next while, the on-loan Brazilian will need the nous of Kane to create space for him, and could precipitate a change of formation to a 4-4-2. Neither Erik Lamela or Gareth Bale are likely to start, which makes sense if that switch does occur. The visitors might also be shorn of both senior left-backs, but that might not affect them too harshly in the kind of tactical battle likely to be waged.
Miasma on the Tyne
There is a real funk settling back in Newcastle. In a way, that's symbolic of much of the time during current owner Mike Ashley's reign. Far from having unrealistic expectations however, most of their passionate supporters accept that with the existing squad, a bottom-half finish would likely be the limit of their ambitions. Bruce's dour demeanour and erring on the side of conservatism isn't helping endear him to anyone outside the boardroom, and whilst there are also rumblings at Spurs, at least they have the quality to make something happen. 888sport are offering odds of 2.65 for the visitors to come away with all three points and a clean sheet to boot.