Two relegation zone clubs square off on Sunday in the Premier League when Sunderland host Newcastle United in the 155th Tyne-Wear derby (12:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Sunderland have endured a terrible start to the season, having been beaten six times, and are the only side in the Premier League without a victory to their name. They are unsurprisingly rooted to the bottom of the table with just three points from their three draws.
The Black Cats lost 1-0 away to West Bromwich Albion last Saturday in Sam Allardyce’s (pictured) first match at the helm. They had a couple of half chances in a tightly contested and fairly uneventful encounter that was eventually settled by a controversial goal. Sunderland felt, with some basis, that goalkeeper Costel Pantililmon had been fouled during its concession.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Allardyce, who was relatively pleased with what was otherwise a decent showing on his debut on the Sunderland bench. He was particularly pleased with the increased solidity displayed by a defensive unit who had previously conceded 18 times in eight matches under the command of previous coach Dick Advocaat.
Best Tyne-Wear Derby Betting Odds
8/5 Sunderland (Bet365, Coral, BetVictor, Betfred, Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)
19/10 Newcastle (Bet365, BetVictor, SkyBet)
12/5 Draw (Bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, Betfair or Unibet)
Allardyce does, however, have an uphill battle on his hands if he is to drag a low-quality squad up the table and away from the danger zone. His defensive unit will be more severely tested by better opponents, while at the other end, it is necessary to go back three seasons to find a campaign in which any of his forwards hit double figures in a major league.
Allardyce will definitely be without the injured Adam Matthews (ankle) for this derby game, while Duncan Watmore (hamstring), Jack Rodwell (ankle) and Ola Toivonen (groin) are all doubtful. Jeremain Lens and Sebastian Coates return from suspension.
Newcastle have likewise endured a difficult start to the campaign but come into the derby boosted by securing their first win of the season last weekend. They lie a lowly 18th in the Premier League table with six points from one win, three draws and just one less defeat that their opponents at five.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored four times as Steve McLaren’s side triumphed 6-2 at home to Norwich on Sunday. There were five goals during the first half and a further three in the second as Newcastle eventually emerged victorious from a match that had been evenly contested for its first hour. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez scored their other goals.
It was some style in which to secure their first league victory of the season and a performance that gave cause for optimism going forward. It has been a hard start for McLaren but after facing six of last season’s top eight across their opening nine fixtures, his side can now at least look forward to some easier engagements over the next month or so.
The former England coach has remained largely unruffled despite Newcastle’s early-season difficulties and will be confident that they can climb the table in the coming weeks. Summer signings Mitrovic and Wijnaldum are starting to show their talent, although the defensive unit – tied with Sunderland’s as the league’s second worst – does remain a cause for concern.
McLaren will definitely be without the injured Curtis Good (hip), Karl Darlow (ankle), Emmanuel Riviere (knee), Gabriel Obertan (hamstring), Steven Taylor (hamstring) and Tim Krul (knee) for this game, while Kevin Mbabu (knock) and Rolando Aarons (knock) are doubtful.
Our Preview’s Sunderland v Newcastle Betting Tips
Sunderland triumphed 1-0 home and away in last season’s derbies and have actually won each of the last five league encounters between the sides. Their unbeaten run stretches to seven, with Newcastle’s last victory in this fixture coming back in 2011. The last six at the Stadium of Light have seen three wins for Sunderland, one for Newcastle and two draws.
Sunderland could really do with a victory on Sunday to boost morale following a very poor start to the campaign. Allardyce will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Advocaat, Gus Poyet and Paulo Di Canio, all of whom defeated Newcastle in their respective second matches in charge of the Black Cats. To do so will require a swift improvement.
Newcastle will have gained confidence from their terrific win at home to Norwich last weekend and will be optimistic of ending their five-match losing streak in this derby. They are starting to function well in attack and while their defence is still a little too leaky for comfort, Sunderland are likely to offer less of an offensive threat than the majority of their opponents.
Our match preview’s verdict, reflected in the following betting tips, is that this will be a strongly contested encounter, with a low-scoring draw the most likely outcome.