The distant strains of the Europa League anthem can finally be heard again in north London, with Tottenham’s inevitable José Mourinho-ing of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal putting them right back in contention for Europe’s second-tier competition.
What might be running through Mourinho’s mind? Perhaps he sees Wednesday’s trip to St James’ Park as a real cup final, a chance to take on the combined might of Sheffield United and Wolves, and challenge them for the right to travel to Krasnodar next season.
On the other hand, given the former Chelsea manager’s somewhat ambivalent relationship with Europe’s second-tier cup competition, it’s just as likely that he’ll see the Newcastle match as a relatively pressure-free opportunity to continue his efforts to stamp his mark on a transitional Spurs side.
We might see a slightly different line-up on Wednesday, as a result, as Mourinho attempts to rotate a tired squad and test out some new players.
Hugo Lloris (GK) – The lineup isn’t going to be that surprising, mind you. World Cup winning keeper Lloris’ form has – unsurprisingly – gone under the radar, and he may need to be at his best if the dangerous Allan Saint-Maximin nips in behind Spurs’ ponderous back four.
Moussa Sissoko (RB) – With Serge Aurier mourning the untimely and tragic death of his brother, there’s a good chance the Ivorian won’t play against Newcastle. It’s not a position that Spurs have significant depth in, so Sissoko’s versatility may come to the fore once more.
Davinson Sánchez (CB) – One of Sánchez’ worst moments in a Spurs shirt arguably came in the reverse of Wednesday’s fixture, as Joelinton punished his lapse in concentration. But with Japhet Tanganga not yet at full fitness and Eric Dier still suspended for going all Mortal Kombat on a Norwich fan, he should get a chance at redemption.
Toby Alderweireld (CB) – The man of the hour! Alderweireld now has a north London Derby winner to add to his impressive list of accomplishments, and with the aforementioned absences of Dier and Tanganga, is back in Mourinho’s starting XI and good books.
Ben Davies (LB) – Watching the unassuming, diligent style of Ben Davies, as he thinks about crossing the halfway line and then decides ‘nah, better not’, you wonder how it took Mourinho 57 years of his life to team up with the Welshman. The good news for us? We’ll get to watch it all again on Tyneside.
Lucas Moura (RM) – File under ‘Oh of course Mourinho loves this guy’ next to Ben Davies. Moura gives away possession more times than anyone else on the pitch, crosses a ball like he’s wearing rollerblades and hasn’t scored or assisted in his last 12 games. But he works incredibly hard in the final third and forces plenty of opposition mistakes, so that’s a bonus.
Oliver Skipp (CM) – There’s no doubting the fact that Giovani Lo Celso needs a rest in midfield. The Argentine has looked a little ragged in his last two outings, so what better time – with Sissoko shifting to full back and Gedson Fernandes nowhere to be seen – than to hand record signing Tanguy Ndombele a now rare start? While that makes sense, this is José Mourinho we’re talking about – so who are we kidding, let’s get ready for a bit of Oliver Skipp from the start.
Harry Winks (CM) – With Skipp in next to him to break up play, will the shackles be released on Winks to play in a slightly more advanced role? Possibly. If they are, expect him to run himself ragged and perhaps show Mourinho that he’s not the ideal man to have patrolling in front of the back four on his own.
Steven Bergwijn (LM) – Finishing, speed, determination and fantastic instincts – the young Dutchman has it all, except seemingly the faith of his manager. In and out the side like a yo-yo, Bergwijn should get the nod here and will give Newcastle’s right-back – whoever that may be – one hell of a workout.
Son Heung-min (CF) – Hopefully it has occurred to Mourinho that it’s a genuine insult to field Son as a touchline-hugging winger in his system, with the South Korean attacker far more deserving of a central role. There, he can get on the ball and drive at Newcastle’s centre halves – something the Magpies really won’t want.
Harry Kane (ST) – Running in behind, attacking crosses, almost catching out Emiliano Martínez with a curling effort at his far-post – Harry Kane was actually impersonating a striker against Arsenal. Encouraging signs for a man who is more in need of a strong end to the season than most, but a man who nonetheless has an addiction to silencing his critics.