Morning all. Saturday doesn't half come round quickly at the moment! We've now got just 13 Premier League matches left for each side. Kicking off the weekend are two teams who are famed for scoring goals - Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United. Let's hope there are plenty today.
Talking of goals, Tottenham have gone a bit crazy in that area in recent weeks. They've scored 13 during their unbeaten run of nine matches, while only shipping eight up the other end. And all that with only Jermain Defoe as a recognised striker because Emmanuel Adebayor has been at the Africa Cup of Nations.
So no recognised striker for Spurs at all today. Defoe is out with an injury, while Adebayor has been benched after his return from the AFCON. All that means that Clint Dempsey will lead the line, with Lewis Holtby, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale providing the support.
Like Spurs, Newcastle have also gone for a 4-5-1 formation to start off with. Papiss Cisse has been given the lone striker responsibility, while James Perch will take on a central midfield role. It looks as though Alan Pardew is keen to nullify the threat of the two Tottenham wingers - Bale and Lennon.
TEAM CORRECTION: There has actually been a late alteration to that Newcastle starting lineup. Sylvain Marveaux has dropped out and his place will instead go to Yoan Gouffran. That has actually given the visitors a more attacking outlook.
Staying with Newcastle and one player that has made an immediate impression is Moussa Sissoko following his arrival last month. The midfielder claimed an assist against Villa, before scoring twice in the 3-2 win over Chelsea last time out. For a player that is meant to be defensive-minded, he gets forward extremely well.
Tottenham themselves also have a January signing of their own who has caught the eye. Lewis Holtby has come from Schalke 04 with a big reputation for someone so young but he has lived up to that so far with two substitute performances. Those outings have resulted in him being handed a role from the beginning today in what will be his first appearance at White Hart Lane.
Holtby has come into a midfield that also includes a certain Gareth Bale, who has been in fine form of late. He's scoring goals, and good goals at that, on a regular basis. If he finds the net today, Newcastle supporters should fear the worst because Spurs have won 77.7% matches that the Welsh winger has scored in. Having said that, he has only scored twice at home this season.
Incidentally, the chaps on Soccer Saturday are discussing Bale and how much he would be worth if he was to leave Spurs. Paul Merson has asked how much Neymar would cost because "he isn't fit to lace Bale's boots". Slightly harsh! Anyway, the verdict is around £40m, which in the current market, seems around fair. If Spurs don't qualify for next season's Champions League, you'd have to feel that he will be on his way in the summer.
One interesting name on the Newcastle bench is Cheick Tiote, who like Adebayor has just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations where his Ivory Coast side disappointingly lost out in the quarter-finals. It's a little bit of a surprise that he is not included in the starting lineup because his game is all about stopping others from playing. He would be useful with the likes of Bale and Lennon playing for Spurs.
Right then, the players are now in the tunnel. It's a good atmosphere inside White Hart Lane. Prediction time! I'm going for a 3-1 victory to Tottenham, with Bale and Holtby finding the net for the home side at some stage.
CHANCE! Bale really is playing out of his skin at the moment. It's taken two minutes for him to make an impact as he drilled in an inviting cross in front of the Newcastle goal, but a sliding Dempsey was just unable to make contact with the ball. Any touch there and Spurs would be 1-0 up already.
Having almost claimed an assist moments before, Bale has just put Spurs in front. It was a great free kick from the Welsh winger, who hit Cristiano Ronaldo-like from 20 yards. The ball swerved in the air, leaving Tim Krul no chance as the ball crept inside his near post. Great start for Tottenham.
CHANCE! Almost a dream debut for Holtby, who takes aim from the edge of the area with his left foot. However, his effort is always rising and it eventually clears the crossbar by a couple of yards. It's been all Spurs so far and they look like scoring a second at any moment.
Newcastle have really struggled in the final third so far. Papiss Cisse is too isolated as a lone striker and at times he is being marked by both Tottenham centre-backs. The likes of Sissoko and Gouffran need get closer and offer support much quicker than they currently are.
CHANCE! Another opportunity for Holtby as Steven Caulker bursts out of the Tottenham defence to eventually pick out the German midfielder on the edge of the box, but the Newcastle defence gets back and forces the Spurs player to shoot well wide.
CHANCE! Big, big chance for Newcastle to go level with their first effort of the match. The ball drops on the head of Cisse eight yards from goal and all alone, but his header floats just wide of the post with Hugo Lloris rooted. Meanwhile, up the other end Holtby again goes close as he curls over the bar from 18 yards out.
They've barely featured in this match and yet Newcastle are level. Sissoko did well to raid down the right, before cutting the ball back to the edge of the area to Yoan Gouffran. The attacker took one touch and then saw his shot beat Lloris thanks to a deflection off Michael Dawson. It's a lucky goal, but Newcastle won't care one jot.
The equaliser appears to have rocked Tottenham a little bit. A lot of the composure that was in their game earlier on has vanished. They look more rushed in possession, while Newcastle are getting about them quicker now and are refusing to allow the home team to settle on the ball.
Sissoko has been the difference over the last 10 minutes or so. He is now getting forward in the same way that he did against Chelsea last week. It's provided Cisse with more support and as a result Newcastle are now looking a lot more dangerous. It's all given Spurs something extra to think about defensively.
It's gone a bit scrappy at White Hart Lane. Both sides are giving the ball away cheaply in the midfield, which in turn means that neither goalkeeper is being called into action. Newcastle will be the happier of the two sides because they are preventing the likes of Bale and Lennon from getting into the game.
Bit more from Twitter as the injured Newcastle defender Danny Simpson has been busy on the social networking site: "The new Newcastle recruits all look very good but how badly was Stephen Taylor missed... Makes a huge difference at centre-back."
Well, after the way that they started this match it wouldn't have been a surprise if Spurs were two or three up at the break. However, they stuttered after going in front and Newcastle have responded well. A draw after 45 minutes is just about fair.
From Tottenham's point of view, they could really do with getting Emmanuel Adebayor on. Although he has been working hard for the team, Dempsey will never be a natural striker. Adebayor would give them a focal point that their play is currently lacking. He can be frustrating at times, but the Togo striker is also capable of producing moments of magic - just like he did in this fixture last year when he scored one goal and set up fourr others in a 5-0 win.
In contrast, Newcastle manager Pardew does not really need to make any alterations. That's not to say his side have been perfect because they haven't. But they came with a game-plan to stop Tottenham's dangerous players and after the first 10 minutes, it has worked well. As the half moved on, they also improved as an attacking force.
Here is some of what David Pleat has had to say about the match over on BBC Radio Five Live: "The Newcastle front players are working very hard. Papiss Cisse, Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko are certainly not lazy and they are stopping Tottenham from building from the back."
Twitter's been busy where this match is concerned! A bit more from Lineker, who displays the sort of humour that he uses on Match of the Day: "I sense manager Alan Pardew has got things back on track at Newcastle. An extension to his contract could be on the cards?"
We've just seen footage of Adebayor sitting on the Tottenham bench. He's just collected a bib so it seems as though he will be warming up shortly. Spurs need him because they look a little toothless. Twice they have got the ball out wide to Lennon already this half, but both times his crosses have been easily cleared.
SAVE! Newcastle's first attack ends up falling to centre-back Steven Taylor, who chests the ball down on the edge of the area after Spurs fail to clear a corner. His volley is straight at Lloris though and the French keeper manages to hold at the first attempt.
SUBSTITUTION: He's now on the stretcher and being taken off the pitch. Both sets of supporters give him a good send off, which is good to see. Let's hope for the player's sake that it is not as bad as it looks. He was playing well. On in his place is Sylvain Marveaux.
Tottenham are now beginning to get on top, but they are not posing much of a goal threat. They really need Adebayor on the pitch because he will give them something up front that is clearly lacking at the moment.
SUBSTITUTION: It's the change that probably should have happened a little earlier as Adebayor enters the action for Tottenham. He has replaced Holtby, who appeared to tire after the restart. Spurs fans will also be pleased to hear that Bale is back on his feet and has returned to the pitch.
SUBSTITUTION: Straight switch at left-back for the home side as Kyle Naughton is replaced by Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The last time Villas-Boas made that change, it resulted in Assou-Ekotto crossing for Dempsey to score against Manchester United. Will history repeat itself today?
Up until this point, both sides have only mustered two shots on target apeice. Spurs in particular will be disappointed with that statistic because the onus on them being the home side is to attack. Granted they've had a lot of the ball in the Newcastle half so far, but Krul has had very little to do.
A few minutes ago Bale's afternoon looked to be over when he was left with a leg injury following a challenge by Perch. He dusted himself down though and may have just scored the winner for Spurs. The winger capitalised on hesitation from Fabricio Coloccini to go through on goal, before keeping his composure to slip the ball underneath Krul from a narrow angle.
CHANCE! What a miss from Caulker. Krul comes and completely misses the ball, leaving the Spurs centre-back with a simple header to make the game safe. He gets his timing all wrong though and the ball skids wide off his shoulder. If Newcastle equalise now, he will not be a popular figure at the Lane!
SUBSTITUTION: Pardew reacts to falling behind by bringing off Perch and sending on Tiote. What is the betting that he gets booked between now and the end of the match? The Ivory Coast international loves a tackle!
SAVE! Only a smart stop from Krul denies Bale a hat-trick. The Spurs attacker skipped clear of two Newcastle defenders, before lashing a shot goalwards from 25 yards out. The Newcastle keeper just manages to get his hand up in time though and tips the ball over the bar.
BOOKING! The first yellow of the match has been handed to Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye for hacking down Moussa Dembele. It's not a great tackle from the Frenchman, who left his studs in his opposite number's leg. He's lucky to escape with just a yellow there.
SUBSTITUTION: Dembele has failed to recover from that challenge with Cabaye and has limped off the field. England youngster Jake Livermore has come on to try and help Spurs see out the remaining four minutes.
SAVE! He's not had a lot to do today, but Lloris may have just earned his side the victory. It looked for all the world that an unmarked Ameobi was going to slot Newcastle level from close range, but Lloris spread himself well to block the shot with his body.
WHAT A MISS! Bale should be leaving White Hart Lane with the match ball. Krul saves his initial effort, but he collects the rebound and has a simple tap-in to make it 3-1. He went for power with his right though and the ball sailed well over the crossbar from six yards out. Moments later he has another effort, but Krul gets a firm hand to his low shot.
Well, that was the Bale show in the end. He's the match winner for Spurs, who collect a vital three points in their bid for a Champions League place. Newcastle shouldn't be too disappointed though because they showed the fighting qualities that were lacking in their performances earlier in the season.
That's all we have time for from White Hart Lane. Thanks for joining us for the coverage and be sure to stay with Sports Mole over the course of the afternoon for live commentaries, match reports and reaction from all the games at home and abroad. Enjoy.
ID:68388: cacheID:68388:1false2false3false:QQ:: from db desktop :LenBod:restore:30042: