This weekend sees a pre Christmas treat for football fans as it is the first Tyne Wear derby of the season. It is one of the better derbies in the country, with the passion and entertainment that comes from it. There is never a dull North East derby. In recent years Sunderland have had the better results against their North East rivals, but Newcastle and Alan Pardew especially need the victory more this weekend. Alan Pardew became the first manager to lose three derbies in a row for a long time, he will not want to lose a fourth. Newcastle will have a number of players who grew up in the North East in their side, with Steven Taylor, Jack Colback and Paul Dummett all likely to start, while Sammy Ameobi and Jak Alnwick are also contenders to start the match. Meanwhile Sunderland have a core of English players in their side who will know the importance of the game, but only Adam Johnson grew up in the North East.
Newcastle have been improving over the last couple of months, but morale draining defeats against Arsenal and Tottenham mean that they need to bounce back this weekend. Their fixture list over Christmas makes for difficult reading, with this match being the best opportunity to pick up three points, but the derby factor makes it difficult to predict. They haven’t lost since the opening day at St James’ Park, but Sunderland have won on their last two visits. Pardew has had to deal with an injury crisis for a while now, and the current goalkeeping crisis is making his job very difficult. He could have his main three goalkeepers injured on Sunday with the club aiming to enter the emergency loan market, but the registration of on loan Karl Darlow could make their request problematic. If the request is denied, 17 year old Freddie Woodman could be starting in the biggest game of Alan Pardew’s season.
Sunderland will be traveling to their rivals in good spirits after avoiding defeat in the last five derbies and winning the last three. They have often played more passionate football than their rivals, getting stuck in and this has caused trouble for Newcastle’s array of Frenchman. However the loss of Jack Colback to Newcastle could be the determining factor this weekend, as he was key in Sunderland’s success in this fixture in recent years. They are hovering just above the relegation zone with only two wins to their name, but the number of draws they have earned has kept them afloat. Sunderland have actually lost less matches than Newcastle in the league this season. However their struggles in front of goal have meant that they can’t turn good defensive displays into victories.
In this fixture last season, Sunderland triumphed 3-0 on an embarrassing day for Newcastle, with Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson and Jack Colback scoring the goals. They won by the same scoreline only a year earlier, which suggests they will turn up at St James’ Park with lots of confidence. In the match at the Stadium of Light last season, the home side won again, this time by a scoreline of 2-1. Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini netted on this occasion, while Mathieu Debuchy scored for Newcastle.
Newcastle have only lost twice in their last ten Premier League fixtures, winning their last four at St James’ Park. They will be hoping their impressive home form continues this weekend against their rivals.
Sunderland have drawn five of their last six league games showing how difficult they are to beat. However the lack of wins will have dented the confidence of their attackers as they have only scored three goals over this period.
Moussa Sissoko has been a pivotal part of Newcastle’s turnaround as his pace and power allows the side to play counter attacking football. A lot of Newcastle’s goals have come from quick breaks after an opposition attack, with Sissoko being the key part in getting the ball from one box to the next. His strength allows him to run at defenders and shrug challenges off, while his final ball is getting more consistent. He is playing the best football of his career and he was missed against Arsenal. The team played better in midweek in attack, creating several chances on Spurs’ goal and Sissoko played a big part in that. He has only scored once and got one assist, but a lot of his key contributions come directly before the goal is scored, playing the crucial pass to open up defences, while his running at defences is effective as he can create spaces for others to exploit. He will be key on Sunday as Sunderland will solid at the back, and a player like Sissoko will create confusion in the back four, especially if he is running at them with power.
Sunderland will need to play with tenacity in the midfield if they are to get a foothold in the game and Lee Cattermole will be the man they look for on Sunday to get a foot in and retrieve possession. This match will be a tasty affair with lots of tackles flying in and that amount of passion is required. However they will need to be careful not to be over aggressive as that could end in a side playing with ten men, and Cattermole is a player who could be in danger of that. Gus Poyet will have to ensure his midfielder keeps his passion in check and that it doesn’t go over the top. Although he may have a bad reputation, Cattermole is a talented footballer, who has a good passing range and is exceptional at breaking up play. He will be crucial on Sunday as Sunderland will need him to ensure that Newcastle’s attacks are kept to a minimum, while Jack Colback and Sissoko could have a telling impact on this match, it will be Cattermole’s job to make sure the Newcastle midfield is quiet.
Newcastle have a terrible injury list, with Jak Alnwick, Sammy Ameobi, Cheick Tiote, Mehdi Abeid and Papiss Cisse all doubts. Davide Santon, Siem de Jong and Tim Krul will be missing until the new year. Rolando Aarons is out for another couple of weeks, while Ryan Taylor could be back in the new year. Adam Armstong could be in line for an appearance after a decent cameo in midweek. Freddie Woodman is on standby if Alnwick doesn’t make it. Jack Colback will start against his old club.
Billy Jones and Emanuele Giaccherini are doubts going into this weekend, while former Newcastle United loanee Patrick van Aanholt will definitely be missing. Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher are both likely to start in a match they have both scored in in recent matches. Sunderland go into this with very few injuries, which could give them an advantage over their North East rivals.
This will be a passionate game with lots of tackles flying in, especially early doors. In recent matches, Sunderland have come out firing early which has dented Newcastle’s confidence and allowed their rivals to dominate the play early on. This needs to be avoided this season, and Pardew must drill into his side the importance of a quick start. The atmosphere will be excellent and as the home side, Newcastle must be spurred on by that. Recent form goes out of the window in this fixture and both sides have an excellent chance. If Newcastle had more of their key players available, I would back them to beat their rivals, but with their current injury problems, I can see this being a hard fought draw.
Newcastle United 1-1 Sunderland