Tottenham travel to Newcastle Wednesday night, looking to build upon their win over fellow top-four contenders Everton at the weekend. They face a Newcastle side that has suffered back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Sunderland and Chelsea and are looking to kick-start their season after a run of five defeats in seven Premier League fixtures.
Here are three key tactical battles that could decide the game:
Mousa Dembele v Moussa Sissoko
Both sides have potential match-winners in midfield and which one of Moussa Sissoko and Mousa Dembele performs best could settle the contest. The two men both give their side athletic presences in the middle of the park and are two of their sides' most creative midfield players.
Ordinarily the two men may not be pitched against each other, with Sissoko deployed by Alan Pardew on the right of midfield, while Sissoko reverted to his preferred central midfield position against Chelsea at the weekend and is likely to stay there tonight.
Sissoko has created 59 chances for Newcastle this season, proving to be comfortably their most creative player of the season. He has over the double number of chances created of any other player currently at the club, with the departed Yohan Cabaye the only player to have got within 30 chances of the club’s stand-in-captain this season.
Only Eden Hazard and David Silva have created more chances than Sissoko this season, and the French midfielder produced four key passes in the defeat to Chelsea.
With Tottenham missing Sandro at the base of their midfield, it is likely to fall to a combination of Dembele, Paulinho and Nabil Bentaleb to deal with Sissoko. In Tottenham’s last game—the 1-0 win over fellow top-four hopefuls Everton—Dembele made five tackles in central areas, contributing to his total of 50 tackles made over the season.
If he can marshal the midfield areas as efficiently in tonight’s trip to the north-east, then he could go some way to stifling the hosts’ most creative player, who is all the more important to Newcastle in the absence of top scorer Loic Remy.
The Belgian is also important going forward. He has provided 27 chances this season—third highest amongst the Tottenham side—and has completed 59 take-ons, mainly in central areas through bursting runs towards the edge of the box.
Dembele is likely to play alongside Bentaleb and Paulinho, whilst Sissoko will be in front of Davide Santon and Vurnon Anita. However it is Dembele and Sissoko who provide the potential match-winners amongst the centre of midfield, making their respective games crucial to the outcome of the game.
Emmanuel Adebayor v Mike Williamson
Emmanuel Adebayor has been reborn under Tim Sherwood and once again came to Spurs’ rescue against Everton at the weekend. The Togo striker’s sixth goal of the season, a tally that has come from just 10 appearances, came in a game in which his side were under the cosh and Adebayor did little else.
As with all good strikers, Adebayor rarely needs a second invitation to score and can settle a game that appears destined for a draw with one moment of quick finishing. The former Arsenal and Manchester City man has a conversion rate of 40 percent this season, impressively high and testament to his finishing abilities.
In Williamson, Adebayor is coming up against a physical defender who will be optimistic of stopping him from adding to the two headed goals that he has scored this season. Williamson has won 64 percent of his headed duels this season and has made 21 tackles.
Willing to throw his body on the line for the cause, the former Watford man has made 212 clearances this season, but will have to be on top of his game to stop one of the league’s form strikers.
Luuk de Jong v Michael Dawson
At the other end of the pitch, another aerial battle could be crucial between Newcastle’s new signing Luuk de Jong and Tottenham captain Michael Dawson. De Jong, a January loan signing from Borussia Moenchengladbach, made his first start against Chelsea and is set to keep his place as the lone frontman due for a Newcastle side that has looked toothless without Remy.
The battle between De Jong and Dawson is unlikely to be one for the purist.
Former FC Twente man De Jong stands at 6'2" and can best be described as a target man thriving off of balls into the box. His strengths lie both aerially; last season he won 61 of his 134 contested headed duels. His impressive work rate that saw De Jong make 12 tackles, 11 interceptions and 25 clearances in 23 Bundesliga appearances last season.
The Dutchman has not scored in his two Newcastle appearances, meaning that he has not scored a league goal since April 2013. Prior to his move he had been out of the Moenchengladbach side, having been a peripheral figure last season. Despite this, he scored six goals from his 23 games last season, giving him one every 232 minutes.
De Jong’s dogged determination and hold-up play will keep the England international busy, but Dawson is likely to relish the physical elements of the contest. He has made won 93 headed duels this season, as well as winning 23 tackles, and will much prefer marking De Jong to the suspended and pacey Remy.
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