Newcastle United's failure to replace Yohan Cabaye may define their season, and indeed, chances of beating Tottenham Hotspur.
The Magpies haven't scored since the Frenchman left for Paris Saint-Germain and have only managed one point from three games.
Spurs are much improved under Tim Sherwood and he will be pleased with their ability to bounce back from the 5-1 defeat to Manchester City on Jan. 29, picking up a useful four points from tough matches against Hull and Everton.
Momentum appears to be heading in different directions for Newcastle and Spurs ahead of their upcoming encounter. Here, we breakdown the match that pits eighth against fifth.
When: Wednesday, February 12 at 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET
Where: St. James' Park, Newcastle, England
Watch: USA; NBC Sports Live Extra; Match of the Day (Highlights, U.K.)
Chances: Newcastle United (36.4 percent), Tottenham (37 percent), Draw (26.6 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports
As touched upon earlier, this Newcastle team has hastily retracted toward the poor form we saw at the beginning of the campaign.
Alan Pardew's men turned this around to play confident football throughout November and December, racking up seven wins from nine games before the Dec. 29 defeat to Arsenal, as recorded by WhoScored.
Since then, and including the aforementioned loss, Newcastle have accumulated one victory in eight games. To make matters worse, the recently departed Cabaye scored two vital goals in the 3-1 win over West Ham that last grabbed three points.
Turmoil then hit the club when Joe Kinnear resigned from his director of football position without making any new signings, despite taking on the head of recruitment role.
"Kinnear has only himself to blame. Having told supporters and his media critics to 'judge him on his signings' during a series of confrontational interviews last summer, he has been," wrote Luke Edwards of The Telegraph.
While Kinnear was never a popular figure at St. James' Park, his departure highlights uncertainty within the core of the club. Kinnear, Pardew and owner Mike Ashley were unable to replace their star player in January, forcing supporters into questioning how progress is being made.
Newcastle are now four points behind a hapless Manchester United side and look as if they will struggle to finish higher than ninth in a season that promised much toward the end of 2013.
The opposite can be said for Spurs, who have sorted out their internal issues and are looking strong. Andre Villas-Boas is a distant memory for the side that is playing fast-paced, attack-minded football under Sherwood.
Victory against Everton, in a match Spurs struggled to dominate, was an extremely positive step in a season that could still see the White Hart Lane faithful qualify for next season's Champions League.
Although Liverpool will be difficult to catch in their current form, it's the reemergence of players such as Emmanuel Adebayor that has aided Spurs' improved offerings.
The 29-year-old has scored six goals since returning to the team, but his match-winner at Everton was his first in front of Spurs' home crowd, per OptaJoe:
Such prolific away form will have Newcastle worried.
Sherwood favours the use of wing play and continues to deploy Aaron Lennon down the right. The Englishman's extreme speed is complemented by Christian Eriksen's passing ability on the other flank, providing Spurs with a well-rounded and penetrative attack.
It's this purposeful sense of character that Newcastle lack right now. Expect Spurs to arrive confidently and blow the home side away 3-1, despite plenty of effort from those in black and white.
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