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Tottenham and Newcastle United are still favourites in top four race

Why Tottenham and Newcastle United are still favourites in top four race

The wheels continued to fall off for Tottenham Hotspur following yet another damning defeat to Aston Villa that forced them out of the Premier League top four for the first time this season.

Ange Postecoglou’s depleted Tottenham side were always going to struggle against a spirited Villa, but there was a sense that their home support could spur them on to a positive result.

The opening proceedings appeared to confirm those sentiments as Spurs took the game by the scruff of its neck, showing signs of a bullish side ready to turn the screws after consecutive defeats.

Giovanni Lo Celso, who was handed his first Premier League start of the season, replacing injured playmaker James Maddison, repaid Postecoglou’s faith with a stunning first-half effort.

When it seemed the stars were aligning for a Tottenham victory, Villa turned the game on its head via a Pau Torres header and a deft Ollie Watkins finish, securing their third consecutive win against Spurs.

After their emphatic start to the season, Tottenham have now lost consecutive home games and three on the bounce, slipping off the top four and into fifth place.

Postecoglou’s rampaging Spurs may have been knocked off their perch, but they remain within touching distance of the Champions League places and the league leaders Arsenal.

Before ball was kicked this season, no one envisaged a top-four finish for Spurs, and the departure of talismanic striker Harry Kane further emphasised that prediction.

They’re still in and around the top four, but their upcoming fixtures could have a season-defining impact on their ambitions, with games against Manchester City, West Ham United and Newcastle United on the horizon.

Speaking of Newcastle, the Magpies displayed incredible resilience to oust Chelsea at St. James’ Park, running out 4-1 winners over the fledgling Blues despite their injury crisis.

It was evident that a number of Eddie Howe’s men weren’t at optimal fitness levels, with Anthony Gordon and Joelinton seen limping at various points, but they wanted and got the result they deserved in style.

Newcastle haven’t been at their sparkling best this season. They went into the Chelsea game on the back of consecutive defeats, but their result against the Blues epitomises the fighting spirit in Howe’s group.

That resilient nature will be key in their battle for the top four, especially with Manchester United and Aston Villa also staking their claims for a Champions League slot.

Regardless of Man United and Villa’s form, Tottenham and Newcastle remain favourites in the top four race, with the former expected to use their European hiatus to further their domestic ambitions.

Spurs may be slipping and upcoming fixtures may not bode well for their chances of a renaissance, but Postecoglou has got his side employing a fruitful, free-flowing attacking brand of football, capable of putting even the best sides on their heels.

The absence of Maddison, Micky van de Ven, and Cristian Romero have undoubtedly rocked the boat. But with every performance, Spurs look one win away from recapturing their previous form.

As for Newcastle, injuries threaten to derail their campaign, but results against Man United and Villa this season, among others, prove that they have the potential to upset the established order yet again.

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