In my career as a sports writer, I have generally tried to steer clear of clichés where possible.
But one tired old saying I must reluctantly pay lip service to right now is that a week is a long time in football. In fact, it seems like a couple of days is a long time in football.
On Tuesday, I sat down to write an early overview of Tottenham’s upcoming clash with Newcastle United as part of our regular ‘Picks of the Week’ offering.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was anxiously awaiting the verdict of his Crown Court trial for alleged tax evasion, while Fabio Capello was in the headlines for his outspoken opposition to John Terry being stripped of the England captaincy (again).
Fast forward to the present and Redknapp’s name has been cleared, Capello’s desk has been cleared and now every man and his dog (especially those called Rosie) are putting ‘Arry up to replace the Italian.
Redknapp has suggested today that he has “not even thought about” the national team vacancy as he focuses on the remainder of Spurs’ season, but the speculation is unlikely to die down any time soon.
For now though, the former Portsmouth boss will turn his attention to Saturday’s visit of Newcastle, whose manager Alan Pardew has ruled himself out of the running for the England job (hey, me too, Alan!).
Spurs are the 9/20 favourites for the win in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with the draw priced at 13/4 and Newcastle available at pretty lengthy odds of 6/1.
The north Londoners certainly merit that short price considering their impressive home record – only Manchester City have managed to claim all three points at White Hart Lane in the Premier League so far this season.
Spurs have not always been prolific at home this term, as before their 3-1 win over Wigan ten days ago, clashes with Wolves, Everton, West Brom, Chelsea and Sunderland yielded just six goals.
However, they have plenty of injury concerns, with doubts over Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, Sandro and Younes Kaboul, while the likes of Tom Huddlestone and William Gallas remain on the sidelines.
The absence of Lennon is a particular problem for Spurs as it robs them of the balance and natural width provided by the former Leeds flier on the right side, in tandem with Gareth Bale on the left.
While Monday’s goalless draw at Liverpool was a decent result in terms of their Champions League aspirations, it underlined the fact that Spurs do not have the strength in depth to really challenge the Manchester giants for the title.
They were pushed back for long periods at Anfield and Emmanuel Adebayor cut an isolated figure for the majority of the game, while Bale was stifled in his free role by the Reds’ holding midfielders, Jay Spearing and Charlie Adam.
Newcastle may well prove similarly obdurate opponents on Saturday, but the major dilemma facing Pardew relates to how positively he should set up his team.
The Magpies were comfortably beaten 3-1 by Liverpool at Anfield in December when playing with five across midfield and Demba Ba ploughing a lone furrow up front.
However, Pardew apparently learnt his lesson from that experience as he bravely switched to a 4-4-2 when Manchester United visited St James’ Park a few days later, getting his reward with a thumping 3-0 success.
Considering the outstanding form of Ba and the instant impact made by new signing Papiss Cisse – who scored a stunning volley on his debut against Aston Villa last week – Pardew may be tempted to follow suit here and take the game to Spurs by pairing the Senegal duo together.
But regardless of how they line up, Newcastle are very likely to at least get on the scoresheet, as they have done at Old Trafford, Anfield and the Etihad Stadium so far this term.
The Magpies scored exactly once in all of those matches and can be backed at a very tempting 29/20 to repeat the trick at the Lane, while both teams to score looks pretty safe at odds of 4/5.
Spurs, for their part, have not always been prolific at home this term, as before their 3-1 win over Wigan ten days ago, clashes with Wolves, Everton, West Brom, Chelsea and Sunderland yielded just six goals.
And with Newcastle boasting the sixth-best away record in the division, a close affair looks likely, perhaps one similar to the pulsating 2-2 draw the two sides played out on Tyneside in October.
Having said that, I’m not sure Newcastle have quite come far enough to pull off a victory here, even though they have actually won on two of their last four visits to the Lane.
Tottenham to win a match containing less than four goals is reasonable at 13/10, while Spurs 2-1 Newcastle is undoubtedly the pick of the correct score market options at odds of 7/1.
New customers receive a free £25 bet for joining bwin.com and placing that on Spurs to beat the Magpies 2-1 will provide returns of £200 if that particular scoreline occurs on Saturday evening.
As a final thought, it may be worth having a punt on more goals to be scored in the second half than the first half.
This selection is priced at 11/10, which looks appealing considering 42 of the 69 goals scored in Spurs’ games have arrived after the interval, while the same is true of 39 of the 67 netted in Newcastle’s fixtures.
But if you want to back a winner, look no further than Spurs as they should have just about enough in the tank to allow Redknapp to end a challenging week on a high.
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