Newcastle United surprised everyone in the Premier League with a powerful start and they managed to maintain the high standards they set for much of the season, coming close to pinching a Champions League spot in the process (although they would have missed out by finishing 4th with Chelsea winning the Champions League). This year they will have the added Europa League games to negotiate, but the expectation as risen sharply in this part of the North East.
The Magpies finished in 5th place last season in the Premier League, with just 5 points separating them from 3rd placed Arsenal and Alan Pardew may secretly be thinking he can move his side up a couple of places with doubts over the two sides that finished directly above them last season. Newcastle had an impressive 11-5-3 record at St James' Park, scoring 29 goals and conceding 17.
Pardew has already made it clear that he is happy with the fact that he has been able to hold on to all his key players from last season and he also gets back Steven Taylor from an injury that kept him out for much of latter part of the season.
Cheick Tiote is a doubt for this game, so new signing Vurnon Anita could make his debut in centre midfield. Steven Taylor should also be given a place at the heart of the defence having returned from injury.
Andre Villa-Boas is given a chance to restore his damaged reputation following his time as manager of Chelsea and he takes over from Harry Redknapp who was surprisingly sacked in the Summer. He has inherited a strong squad that did finish in the top four last season but missed a lucrative Champions League place thanks to Villa-Boas' former club winning that competition.
Now that Robin Van Persie has left the Emirates Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur fans will feel they have an opportunity to once again finish in the top four and pick up a Champions League place for next season. Spurs finished with a 7-6-6 record away from home last season, scoring 27 goals and conceding 24, although the team will look to avoid the overall crumble in the second half of the season that saw them drop from 3rd place that was seemingly in their control.
Spurs haven't made too many changes to personnel so far, but it looks like Luka Modric is going to be sold to Real Madrid with the fee then being reinvested in the squad. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Jose Moutinho have been linked with a move to Spurs before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
Jan Vertonghen has been signed and should make his debut at centre half, while Gylfi Sigurdsson should fit in in place of Modric. Scott Parker is unlikely to be passed fit so Sandro could come into the side, while Jermain Defoe will start up front after scoring for England during the week.
Head to Head
Tottenham Hotspur picked up 4 points from the two League games against Newcastle United last season, beating them 5-0 at White Hart Lane.
Their recent record in this part of the North East has not been so impressive as Spurs have failed to win in any of their previous 6 League games here.
Newcastle had won 4 in a row at home against Spurs in the League, but they have both shared the points in each of the last two seasons in games played at St James' Park.
These two teams will both believe they can make the coveted top four at the end of this season, but both will have something to prove at the beginning of this one.
Newcastle United surprised many and need to show that they were not just a 'flash in the pan'- they have the continuity from last season to think they can, but a fast start is likely required to build belief and momentum.
On the other hand, Tottenham Hotspur have lost Harry Redknapp in the Summer and now have a new manager's methods and ideology to implement. However, Andre Villa-Boas has previously been known for the attacking tactics he employs and it may be more of a case of finding a replacement for Luka Modric that determines whether they can finish in the top four again.
I expect both of these sides to push for the win in this one and I think it could prove an inspired choice as the first live game of the season. It is not a big surprise that the layers are finding it hard to separate the teams, but I am surprised they are expecting this game to potentially be a tight affair.
5 of the last 6 games between the teams here have ended with at least 3 goals being scored and that becomes 7 of the last 9 when looking a little further back.
With both teams looking for the three points, I'll take the Over and hope for an entertaining game.
Auls Betting Tip : Over 2.75 Goals