Harry Redknapp manager of Tottenham Hotspur salutes the travelling fans prior to the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 4th Round match between Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur in London England. Tottenham play Newcastle United on February 11, 2012. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Clash between England's highest ranked English managers likely to be decided by form of African strikers?
Third place Tottenham Hotspur's game against fifth place Newcastle United is notable, in this of all weeks, as a clash of English football's two highest ranked English managers*; you have to go all the way down to 15th place and Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion to find another English led club.
Harry Redknapp versus Alan Pardew also features, 24 hours before the Africa Cup of Nations final between Zambia and Ivory Coast, three of that continent's most potent attackers. After a debut brace from Newcastle's Senegalese, double-Demba strikeforce, both Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse are expected to start for Newcastle (Leon Best suffered ligament damage in the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa). Emmanuel Adebayor will also start for Tottenham, but given that he hasn't scored since Christmas (his last goal coming in Spurs' 1-1 draw with Chelsea) and with Jermain Defoe and Rafael van der Vaart doubtful, their goalscoring burden will fall on Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.
Having suffered something of an injury crisis earlier in the season (which accounted for Newcastle's fall out of the Champions League running), Newcastle had managed to find a defensive solution in Stephen Taylor's long-term absence. That could be jeopardized on Saturday when they'll be without Ryan Taylor, stretchered off last week.
Tottenham, whose next two Premier League games are away to Arsenal and at home to Manchester United, are in a crucial part of their season and will be keen to get something at home to a side with Newcastle's defensive misses. Newcastle will be looking to compensate for those with their new and apparently potent attack. Saturday's last game, then, should also be Saturday's best game.
* Alan Pardew has ruled himself out of the running for the top job; in the spirit of preemptively rejecting jobs never likely to be offered, I'd like to use this forum to do the same. Not for me, thanks.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Newcastle
Game Date/Time: Saturday, February 11, 12:30 p.m. ET, 5:30 p.m. local
Venue: White Hart Lane, London, England
TV: FOX Soccer Channel (USA), Sportsnet World (Canada), ESPN (UK)