Based on the recent performances against Manchester City and Watford, it is difficult to get enthusiastic about the rest of the season.
With three matches to play, the best we can hope is to improve our current position by one or two places.
Our record against the traditional top six at St James’ Park this season has been good with two wins (Chelsea, Manchester United), a draw (Manchester City) and a loss (Arsenal). If we do show up, we could get another positive result, but that is a big if based on the last seven days.
Here is how Steve Bruce could line-up:
Martin Dubravka is set to start in every Premier League match this season, with only three matches to go. He has been our best player this campaign, with a number of point-winning performances, especially before Christmas. The Slovakian kept a clean sheet against Spurs in August and will be hoping to match that feat tonight.
The ineligibility of Danny Rose and confirmed injury to Jamaal Lascelles leaves Bruce with defensive issues to contend with.
Emil Krafth is likely to start on the right and he has shown some promise since the restart. The Swede got an assist against West Ham United and completed two dribbles during the match. He showed that he could threaten in the attacking half.
Fabian Schar hasn’t worked in central midfield. I don’t think that Steve Bruce will be keen to try that again, but he may be forced to start him in a back four due to other injuries. The Swiss international needs to perform well to show that he still has a part to play on Tyneside.
He is likely to partner the dependable Federico Fernandez. The Argentine’s aerial threat at set pieces will be important in this game. Following the weekend, he now has two goals and two assists for the campaign.
Without Rose, it leaves Javier Manquillo as the only option at left-back. He isn’t as effective on this side, as we saw at Watford as he conceded a penalty, but needs must for Bruce and his staff.
It would be surprising to see either Isaac Hayden or Sean Longstaff back in the starting eleven following Bruce’s press conference on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile the contractual situation with Matty Longstaff means he is unlikely to start.
This leaves Jonjo Shelvey and Nabil Bentaleb.
The former is crucial in matches like these as he can create chances out of nothing and has the passing range to set up counter attacks quickly.
The latter has had a mixed bag of performances since the restart and he needs to do more to earn a permanent move. This match against his former club should give him the added motivation he needs to perform.
There are a few options for Bruce in attack, although he seems reluctant to use some of the players available.
If he is fit, Allan Saint-Maximin will start and this is a good opportunity for him to show his class against top-six opposition. Tottenham are nervous at the back and he could cause real damage.
Miguel Almiron has been impressive since the break, with excellent movement and he carries a goal threat. He has two in his last three matches. In the last match at home against West Ham, he had four attempts on goal.
It seems that Bruce has decided that Joelinton is best suited to a wide forward role and he should start against Spurs following a substitute appearance at Watford. He did manage to score in the corresponding fixture and it will be hoped that he can deliver a good performance again today.
Andy Carroll has picked up another niggle, therefore Dwight Gayle should lead the line. His movement and striking instinct has been obvious since the restart, with three goals and an assist. Gayle is averaging a goal involvement every 64.25 minute during this period. He has to start.
OUT – Lascelles, Rose and Ritchie?
IN – Krafth, Bentaleb and Joelinton?
(4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Fernandez, Manquillo – Bentaleb, Shelvey – Saint-Maximin, Almiron, Joelinton – Gayle.