There are several derby games across the country this weekend, but few will rival the ferocity of this one at St James’ Park. While Newcastle may hold the home advantage and also sit considerably higher in the table, the fact that Sunderland have recently exited the drop zone is sure to motivate them ahead of their short trip.
Last season it was actually Newcastle who were struggling near the bottom and when one bears this in mind, Alan Pardew has performed a sterling job to drag the Magpies into the top half. They currently sit in 8th position and with six points separating them from 5th place, it’s still not time to write them off for European qualification. Following a torrid period of form, it looks as though the club are making something of a resurgence as well. Several weeks ago, they embarked on a run which saw them lose four games in a row, but they have responded well and approach this game having beaten West Ham and drawn with Norwich. Both of those games have been on the road though and having lost their last three games at St James’ Park, it will be interesting to see what sort of atmosphere is set up for this game against this local rivals.
Sunderland on the other hand have been threatening to exit the bottom three for a number of weeks, but Gus Poyet’s side finally managed it after narrowly beating Stoke in their last game. As well as lifting them out of the relegation zone, that win also moved them within a point of the Potters and fans must be optimistic that survival can be achieved. Then again, when you look at their recent form, this is no surprise. The club have won four of their last seven and having also lost just once in their last eight top flight outings, they can actually be classed as one of the form sides of the division.
Newcastle have been preparing for this game in the knowledge that they won’t be able to call upon Loic Remy, with the Frenchman set to start a three match suspension after a red card. It gets worse for Alan Pardew in other areas as well, with Papiss Cisse and Yoan Gouffran injured, while new signing Luuk de Jong has played minimal football and is unlikely to be risked. Sunderland meanwhile won’t have Steven Fletcher available, with the former Wolves striker set to miss out through an Achilles injury. On the plus side, Phil Bardsley should start, while Gus Poyet must decide whether or not to throw new signings Ignacio Scocco and Liam Bridcutt in following their recent arrival.
The general rule is that the form book should go out of the window for derby games, but we’re not sure this should be the case in this clash. When you combine Newcastle’s poor home form with Sunderland’s fantastic overall record our conclusion is a 1-0 victory for the Black Cats.