In what will be the biggest game of the opening weekend, Newcastle United will host Tottenham at the Sports Direct Arena. The two teams finished fifth and fourth last season and were in contention for the final Champions League position until almost the closing bell. Both clubs will expect better this year.
Spurs' 2011/12 season was one of two halves. A disappointing start aside (Spurs started the season with high-profile fixtures against the Manchester clubs, losing 0-3 to United and 1-5 to City) Harry Redknapp, then manager, coaxed his team into a 11 match unbeaten run, scalping Liverpool (4-0) and Arsenal (2-1) in the process. They were beaten 1-2 by Stoke after questionable refereeing from Chris Foy but bounced back to go on a seven match run.
By this time however, the toll of the season's start and the impact of rumours linking Redknapp to the England manager's job was taking its toll and Spurs were stumbling... dropping points where they shouldn't have. The 2-3 defeat to City didn't help matters and consecutive defeats to Arsenal and United (2-5 and 1-3 respectively) led to a rapid revision of the season's objectives. Once considered an outside shot as title winners, Spurs then gave up what seemed a certain third place finish to rivals Arsenal and settled for fourth, only to be robbed of the final Champions League position by Chelsea winning the season's edition.
Meanwhile, Newcastle's 2011/12 season was their best in a long time. The Magpies finished above Chelsea and Liverpool on the first season back from the Championship and were helped by a 11 match unbeaten run at the start. A lack of experience soon told, however, and try as they did Alan Pardew's men managed only two points from the next six games. The bedrock of the season should have been strong performances against the big boys in the league but unfortunately Newcastle's poor record against the traditional top teams (United, City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea) was never good enough; in 10 games against these sides, the Magpies won only thrice and lost half of the games). It didn't help that they were prone to surprisingly large defeats to unfancied opposition like Fulham (2-5) and Norwich City (2-4). The only consistent bright spot through the season were the performances of Sengalese strike pair Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, both of whom have stayed on despite interest from Real Madrid and other English clubs.
Newcastle had a torrid time against Tottenham last season, drawing 2-2 in the home fixture and losing 5-0 in the away fixture at White Hart Lane.
Newcastle had a lukewarm pre-season, winning three and losing two of their seven fixtures. The match against Dutch club Den Hag was marred by acts of racism which were condemned by the concerned parties and an investigation into the matter is ongoing. The wins were against French club Monaco, Portuguese outfit Braga and local club Hartlepool United, whom they beat 5-1. However, the pre-season ended on a disappointing note, losing 4-1 to Cardiff City.
Spurs meanwhile enjoyed a strong pre-season, winning five and losing only once in their eight games. The defeat was away to Spanish side Valencia, which is not a poor result by any means. All said and done, new manager Andre Villas-Boas will be pleased at his club's form.
Team News and Probable Line-Ups:
Newcastle are expected to be without a number of key players for this game. Demba Ba and Cisse are still recovering from hamstring injuries but should be able to play, while Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa are unlikely to start. Fabricio Coloccini, the Argentinean centre back, should be ready, however, despite a knock in the game against Cardiff. The Magpies have been busy this summer, signing four players to complement their existing squad. The latest is Dutch midfielder Vurnon Anita, who joins Australian defender Curtis Good, Burundian Midfielder Gael Bigirimana and French attacking midfielder Romain Amalfitano.
Tottenham have not had similar good fortune on the market. However, the transfer of Icelandic international Gylfi Sigurdsson and Belgian centre back Jan Vertonghen were both solid captures and the duo could prove invaluable. Midfielder Scott Parker is definitely ruled out. Finally, AVB will by now know that he cannot count on the services of Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, who is expected to sign for Real Madrid.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, Santon; Anita, Gutierrez; Marveaux, Amalfitano, Bigirimana; Cisse
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Friedel; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro, Huddlestone; Sigurdsson, Van der Vaart, Bale; Defoe
Where to Watch Live
You can watch the match live from the Sports Direct Arena at 4.30 pm BST on ESPN and ESPN HD.