Newcastle United aim to end a four-match winless streak in Tyne-Wear derbies when they entertain local rivals Sunderland at St James’ Park on Saturday (12:45 GMT).
The Magpies come into the match on the back of just one win in their last five league matches, but are well placed in the Premier League table in eighth, with 37 points from 11 wins, four draws and eight defeats.
It has been a solid campaign for Alan Pardew’s side, with none of the relegation worries that marred last season. Newcastle have the seventh best scoring record and the joint eighth best defensive record in the division, indicating that they are a well balanced side. They generally look to defend solidly and break forward quickly on the counter attack.
It will, however, be interesting to see how Newcastle adjust to the loss of midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who has joined Paris Saint-Germain this week in a £20 million deal. His competitiveness, passing range and eye for goal are sure to be missed. Newcastle have picked up 1.82 points per match when he has started compared to just 1.00 when he has not.
Pardew will be glad to see that the club are moving quickly to bring in reinforcements before Friday’s deadline. Dutch striker Luuk De Jong has signed on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach and could go straight into the team, while Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier and Montpellier’s Remy Cabella have also been heavily linked.
The Magpies will definitely be without defenders Fabricio Coloccini (knee) and Ryan Taylor (knee) for the derby, while Papiss Demba Cisse (back) and Yoan Gouffran are both struggling for fitness. Top scorer Loic Remy serves the first match of a three match ban for his red card against Norwich on Tuesday.
Sunderland moved out of the bottom three for the first time since late August with a 1-0 home win over Stoke City on Wednesday. They are 17th in the Premier League table with 21 points from five wins, six draws and 12 defeats.
The Black Cats had taken just one point from seven matches when Gustavo Poyet (pictured above) was appointed manager in mid-November. They still have a battle on their hands to avoid relegation, but have clearly improved since his arrival, averaging a higher share of the shot and goal count and taking a much better 1.25 points per match.
If Sunderland were to continue accumulating points at that rate over their remaining matches they would finish the season on 39 or 40 points, the lower of which has been sufficient for survival in all but two of the last 15 Premier League seasons. This rate could also improve as Poyet brings in new signings better suited to his preferred brand of possession football.
The former Brighton manager has already added left-back Marcos Alonso, goalkeeper Oscar Ustari and central defender Santiago Vergini to his squad during the January transfer window. Sunderland are also expected to complete the signing of technically gifted Argentinian striker Ignacio Scocco from Internacional before Friday’s deadline.
Poyet will be without the injured Carlos Cuellar (hip) for this match, while there are also doubts over Phil Bardsley, who was substituted at half-time during Wednesday’s win over Stoke, and Lee Cattermole, who missed that match with a minor injury.
Newcastle v Sunderland Betting Tips
Sunderland recorded a memorable 3-0 win that helped them stave off relegation in last year’s equivalent fixture and also triumphed 2-1 when the sides met at the Stadium of Light earlier this season. There have been two wins for Newcastle, two draws and one victory for Sunderland in the last five derbies at St James’ Park.
Newcastle have enjoyed a more successful league campaign than their local rivals, but Sunderland have been in the better form in recent weeks, progressing to the final of the Capital One Cup and the fifth round of the FA Cup, and securing two wins and a draw in their last three league matches.
Newcastle were supremely unlucky not to take all three points from a dominant performance (22 shots to nine) against Norwich on Tuesday, but with Cabaye sold and Remy suspended, they will go into this match without two players who between them have contributed over half of the club’s league goals this season.
We expect to see a tight, fiercely-contested match that is most likely to end in a low-scoring draw.