3 Key Battles That Could Decide Newcastle's Encounter With Spurs on Sunday

Rafa Benitez and Mauricio Pochettino can only do as much as name 11 players on a team sheet, but football matches are often decided on the intricacies of the game, the 50/50s and the team selection - still, both are known for their intense planning and tactical prowess. 

As Newcastle face Spurs this Sunday in their return to the top flight, they will be looking to start off their own campaign well, as of course will Pochettino -  the result of the match could be decided by these three factors...

1. Christian Atsu vs Kyle Walker-Pieters

Newcastle's Christian Atsu will be deployed with the simple task of tormenting the unproven youngster, using his pace and trickery to fool the full back. Atsu has proven to be the difference throughout pre-season, scoring twice in his last two games against Wolfsburg and Hellas Verona. 

With chances often few and far between against a tight-knit Spurs defence, expect Rafa Benitez to try and exploit the chink in the Spurs armour with Atsu bombing down the left wing. With Trippier absent through injury, Walker-Pieters will have his hands full this Sunday.

2. Harry Kane vs Ciaran Clark & Florian Lejeune

Harry Kane has been formidable in pre-season and will look to continue his hot streak going into the new season. Scoring 35 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions, there weren't many teams capable of stopping the Englishman last season. 

Therefore, it is a baptism of fire for centre-back pairing Ciaran Clark and Florian Lejeune. Clark has previous Premier League experience with Aston Villa but the same cannot be said for Lejeune. The pair have totted up the most pre-season minutes in the Newcastle squad, and will be tasked with trying to stop Kane. 

3. Jonjo Shelvey vs Christian Eriksen

There is no doubting Jonjo Shelvey's passing abilities, able to take control of a game and create chances that many other midfielders would not see, shown by his nine Championship assists last season. His influence on the game will be something that Mauricio Pochettino will look to neutralise, which is why Christian Eriksen may be deployed to track the Newcastle man. 

Eriksen's defensive abilities and running often goes unnoticed, which is why Pochettino is such a big admirer of the Danish international. Willing to sacrifice himself for the team, he may be tasked with pressing Shelvey when in possession, to then stop any Newcastle attacks but also launch their own counter. This battle could be the most interesting of all tactically.