Will Newcastle’s Andy Carroll be fit to face his suitors Spurs?
TOTTENHAM certainly hope to see a lot more of Andy Carroll in the near future, whatever Alan Pardew says about his availability.
However, the Lilywhites will probably want to avoid him this weekend when they clash with Newcastle for the second time in a month.
It was just over three weeks ago, on December 28, that goals from Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale secured a 2-0 win over the Magpies at White Hart Lane, and Michael Dawson may still have the bruises to show for it.
The Tottenham defender’s aerial duel with Newcastle’s big no9 was the contest of the match, and the England pair could go head to head again on Saturday, if Carroll is fit.
The 22-year-old has not played since the loss against Spurs, and has missed four games with a thigh injury.
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That has been a big loss for manager Pardew, who replaced Chris Hughton in December and has now overseen more than half of his games without his biggest player, who has scored 11 goals so far this season.
Fortunately, Newcastle’s other strikers have stepped up the plate. Shola Ameobi scored the winner in a 1-0 win at Wigan on January 2, and three days later Leon Best netted a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over West Ham at St James’ Park.
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That was the high-point of Pardew’s tenure thus far, but since then the club have suffered a change in fortunes.
The Magpies lost 3-1 to League Two outfit Stevenage in the third round of the FA Cup, despite fielding a full-strength side, and on Sunday a last-minute equaliser denied them victory in the Tyne-Wear derby at the Stadium of Light.
Meanwhile, Pardew has a mounting list of absentees to contend with as he prepares for Spurs’ visit on Saturday – particularly in central midfield.
Cheik Tiote, who goaded Younes Kaboul into a headbutt and a red card at the Lane, was sent off against Stevenage and is suspended, while Alan Smith was injured at Sunderland on Sunday and left the ground on crutches.
Danny Guthrie is likely to come into the middle alongside Kevin Nolan, who has netted 10 goals so far, with Jonas Gutierrez and Joey Barton on the flanks.
Pardew is also sweating on the fitness of centre-back Steven Taylor, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, being replaced by Mike Williamson.
Ex-Spurs winger Wayne Routledge may feature against his old club but, despite playing in 19 of United’s 27 games this season, he is rumoured to be available on loan.
Pardew has Denmark international Peter Lovenkrands at his disposal, and he can also call upon 19-year-old forward Nile Ranger, who grew up in Wood Green and started out in the youth ranks at Broadwater Farm.
The verdict: Newcastle are a hard-working and dangerous outfit, particularly at home. They will hope to have Carroll in their side but Ameobi is also strong in the air and Barton guarantees quality deliveries from set pieces or open play.
Meanwhile, Nolan will have the licence to get forward and pounce on any balls that drop in and around the box, and the Barton-Nolan-Carroll axis produces a steady stream of goals.
Newcastle are the second-highest secorers in the league on home turf, after Manchester United, and Spurs are yet to keep a clean sheet on the road, so the Lilywhites are likely to need more than one goal to win.