This evening Newcastle United take on Chelsea while Tottenham Hotspur take on lowly Bolton. For the Toon, the Blues and Spurs it is a case of trying to nip in and snaffle fourth place in the English Premier League.
Newcastle have defied expectations, spending much less money than the big teams but setting their bargain side for playing attractive, yet powerful soccer. Playing at the Sports Direct Arena, ludicrously renamed from the traditional St. James’ Park halfway through the campaign, they have shocked Liverpool, slammed Manchester United and pulled off results that have seen them clamber over the mid-table teams.
They are currently neck and neck with Tottenham, and Harry Redknapp’s side will know they need to regroup following their last couple of months. Before Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn the Lilly Whites had lost to QPR, Norwich and drawn with Sunderland and Chelsea.
They no longer have uncertainty over the future of their manager, as Harry Redknapp was ignored by the English FA who appointed West Brom manager Roy Hodgson the new England chief in time for Euro 2012. However, Redknapp has a big job in front of him overhauling Spurs’ defense and he must secure a Champions League spot if he is to hold on to the likes of Gareth Bale.
With both these sides in action tonight there will be a some sore necks as punters flit from one set of scores to the other. Both teams are on 62 league points. Both sides are chasing something, but Newcastle are happy: they have already earned a place in the Europa League at the very least, which stretches far beyond their pre-season expectations.
Emotions may be high for Spurs. Tonight they play Bolton who are fighting to stave off relegation from the EPL. Fabrice Muamba has confirmed he will be in the crowd. Holding back is not an option.
Will this mean a positive result for Tottenham? Perhaps not, but the other game is likely to be far more relaxed. Chelsea are Champions League finalists and are meeting Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday to compete for the FA Cup. They may not be at full strength for a game with Newcastle.
It will be interesting to see if a stressed Spurs or a tranquil Toon triumph overall tonight and take a big step towards bringing Champions League soccer to their home grounds.