NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom - Tottenham Hotspur will attempt to get their challenge for a top six finish back on track against the backdrop of a fans’ demonstration at Newcastle United on Sunday.
Some home supporters are planning to boycott the game in protest at the way the club has been run, but that will be a sideshow for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who are bidding to bounce back following the 1-0 home defeat by Aston Villa.
That loss left Spurs in seventh place and seven points adrift of the top four, meaning the north London club’s hopes of claiming a place in next season’s Champions League are effectively over.
Pochettino and his players will not give up on the main prize until the mathematics tell them otherwise, but their more realistic target is to ensure a place in the Europa League.
And after a run of one win in the last four games, they must recover form quickly if they are not to allow the season to fizzle out tamely.
Tottenham centre-back Federico Fazio said: “We need to think only about the last six games now and try to get 18 points. It’s difficult, but we can do it and we have the team to do it.
“We need to be positive and to be confident, that’s most important. We can win these six games, it’s possible.”
Spurs will again look to striker Harry Kane, who heads into the weekend joint top-scorer in the Premier League with 19 goals and Pochettino maintained the young England forward’s impact should earn him the player of the year award ahead of Eden Hazard, instrumental in Chelsea’s rise to the top of the table.
“Hazard is a very good player. He is fantastic,” said Tottenham manager Pochettino.
“But I think not too many people expected that Harry Kane would show the performances that he has this season. This is the difference I believe.” The Spurs trio of Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker all face late fitness tests.
For Newcastle, only two statistics will matter. The scoreline will be crucial as they attempt to end a miserable run of five successive defeats, but the size of the crowd will be studied as an accurate barometer of the anger on Tyneside over the regime of the club’s multi-millionaire owner Mike Ashley.
There has been a growing groundswell of support for a fans’ boycott of the match in the past few days and even head coach John Carver understands why unhappy supporters are calling for the owner to invest heavily in the team.
Lifelong Newcastle fan Carver, asked how he would react if he was still a season ticket-holder and not on the Magpies’ staff, replied: “I would go to the match because I support the team.
“I never thought I’d see it to be perfectly honest, especially in the north-east of England because we love football.
So obviously something has triggered in their heads to make them not want to come and I respect that.”
The unrest is only making Carver’s task more difficult at a time when he is deprived of several key players because of injuries and suspensions, although Fabricio Coloccini will be back for this game after a ban.
Carver knows Coloccini and his fellow defenders face a difficult day against Kane, a forward admired by the United coach.
“He’s been outstanding,” Carver said. “He deserved to get into the England team and it’s great to see a young English player doing so well.
“But we have a more reasonable back four now and hopefully they can stem his flow.”