Tottenham vs. Newcastle: 5 Things to Watch for in Spurs' League Battle Saturday

Frank WagnerCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2013

Tottenham vs. Newcastle: 5 Things to Watch for in Spurs' League Battle Saturday

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    Tottenham kick off the final third of their Premier League season Saturday in a match with Newcastle United at White Hart Lane.

    Spurs come into the match on a fine run of results, having conceded just four goals in an undefeated run through their past nine Premier League matches.

    Meanwhile, Newcastle come in riding a wave of momentum created from a strong January transfer window and two consecutive victories, including last weekend's 3-2 win in front of a rocking St. James' Park.

    The match should be set up to be an entertaining one, but what should one expect from it?

    Here are five things to watch for in Tottenham's match with Newcastle Saturday.

Who Starts Up Front?

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    One of the more interesting subplots in the buildup to Saturday's match will be Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas' decision as to who should start up front for his side.

    The club suffered a setback last week when England international Jermain Defoe went down with an injury that will sideline him for three weeks.

    After failing to sign any strikers in the January transfer window, Tottenham are now faced with a bit of a dilemma at the position due to Defoe's injury and their lack of depth.

    The obvious replacement, Emmanuel Adebayor, is just returning to the club from the Africa Cup of Nations and faces a race to fit back into the side by Saturday.

    American Clint Dempsey has filled in up top when needed, but he has proved more effective in a more supporting role.

    Finally, an experiment with superstar Gareth Bale could even be a possibility, what with the winger's goal-scoring rate being up at the moment.

    AVB's decision and the side's subsequent performance in attack could be an important factor not only in Saturday's match but in the rest of Tottenham's season.

Can Bale's Scoring Form Continue?

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    Whether he starts up front or not, it will be interesting to see if Gareth Bale can continue the fantastic scoring form he has hit in the past few weeks.

    The Welshman has scored two wondrous goals in as many Premier League matches for Tottenham and even scored a goal for his country in a friendly on Wednesday.

    Obviously, if Bale can continue putting the ball in the back of the net, it will be a big boost for Spurs in their current pursuit for Champions League football.

    However, the better the winger performs, the higher offers will be for him this summer from other clubs, making it hard for Spurs to hang onto him.

    With David Hytner of The Guardian reporting that Real Madrid is already lining up a bid for Bale next week, this is an issue that is worth monitoring.

    For now, though, it would be silly to hope for anything besides Gareth finding his best form.

Will Holtby Get His First Start?

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    After Tottenham signed 22-year-old Lewis Holtby from German club Schalke in January for just a £1.25 million fee, many lauded the move as the best of the transfer window and one that was sure to help the club in the long run.

    However, after just two matches off the bench, Holtby has Spurs supporters buzzing with his tenacious performances.

    While it seemed almost unimaginable for the midfielder to come into the starting lineup so quickly given the club's success, it looks to be only a matter of time before Lewis carves out a place for himself in the starting lineup.

    Should Dempsey start up front this week, expect Holtby to get his first start for Tottenham.

    If that happens, don't be surprised if he holds onto that spot for quite some time.

Who Will Win the Midfield Battle?

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    With Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker in the middle and Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon out wide, it's not often that Tottenham supporters have to worry about the midfield battle in Premier League clashes.

    However, Newcastle do pose some threat in this department.

    Jonas Gutierrez and Yohan Cabaye are always a threat to any opponent, while Yoan Gouffran has started well at his new club.

    However, the real wild card is Moussa Sissoko, who had an incredible debut last week against Chelsea, scoring a brace that included the late winner.

    Can Spurs neutralize Newcastle's midfield and prevent them from getting service to Papiss Cisse?

Can Spurs Take Advantage of a Great Opportunity?

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    Saturday's match will not be decisive in Tottenham's pursuit of a top-four finish, but it will be a great opportunity for the club to take a decisive step toward their goals.

    With Newcastle in some good form, this could be one of the trickier encounters of Spurs' final 13 matches. After all, the Magpies looked pretty good in their victory over Chelsea last week.

    With Everton setting up for a tough match against Manchester United at Old Trafford this weekend, a Tottenham win would likely give the Londoners a bit of a cushion between them and the clubs outside of the top four.

    Further, a win would catapult them past Chelsea into third, if only for just a few hours.

    However, a loss could see the Spurs' lead evaporate, leaving the club in a precarious situation with matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool still on the horizon.

    This may not be a make-or-break match for Tottenham, but it will set the club's momentum and its position heading into a tough run-in.

     

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