Two clubs in poor form meet when relegation-threatened Sunderland host their local rivals Newcastle on Sunday in the 154th Tyne-Wear derby (16:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Sunderland go into the match on the back of a run of seven league matches without victory that has seen them drop down into the relegation battle. They are a lowly 17th in the Premier League, with 26 points from four wins, 14 draws and 12 defeats.
Dick Advocaat’s side fell to a 1-0 defeat away to West Ham a fortnight ago in his first match as head coach. They started brightly, with Connor Wickham impressing in his role just behind the two main strikers, but were unable to build on that early promise. In a fairly dull match, their hosts stole all three points in the final minutes to leave Advocaat empty handed.
The Dutchman has been employed on a short-term contract until the end of the season as a replacement for Gustavo Poyet, who was sacked after the 4-0 home defeat to Aston Villa in mid-March. He was not able to do much work with the players ahead of the West Ham game but the subsequent international break has given him a good chunk of time with the squad.
His primary concern will be an attack that holds the second worst goalscoring record in the division, with 23 goals from 30 matches. Only Aston Villa have both scored less and taken fewer shots on target than Sunderland. Advocaat employed three forwards in the defeat to West Ham and may feel that such boldness is the best solution to this problem.
The 67-year-old will definitely be without the injured Emanuele Giaccherini (ankle) for this match.
Newcastle come into the derby on the back of two wins, three draws and seven defeats since John Carver replaced Alan Pardew as head coach in late December. They are 12th in the Premier League table, with 35 points from nine wins, eight draws and 13 defeats.
Carver’s side were somewhat unfortunate to lose 2-1 at home to Arsenal in their final match prior to the international break. Their visitors scored two quick-fire goals to take a healthy advantage into half-time, but Newcastle pulled one back through Moussa Sissoko (pictured) early in the second half and applied heavy pressure in the final stages without reward.
Newcastle have been in relative free-fall since Pardew’s departure to Crystal Palace. At the time they had a 10-point and eight-place advantage over the Eagles. Now Palace are a point and a place ahead of them in the table. The Magpies have picked up just 0.82 points per match since Carver took over, with an average goal difference per match of -0.82.
The club’s attacking output has been thoroughly average this season but it is the defence that has been the real problem. They have the second-worst defensive record in the division, with 48 goals conceded in 30 matches. While the statistics would suggest they have been unlucky to concede quite so many, this is still a clear weak point.
Carver not be able to call on the injured Cheikh Tiote (knee), Massadio Haidara (knee), Paul Dummett (knee), Siem de Jong (lung) and Steven Taylor (achilles) and the suspended Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Demba Cisse.
Sunderland v Newcastle Betting Tips
Sunderland have won each of the last four meetings between this sides at all venues, including a 1-0 win at St James’ Park in December and 3-0 and 2-1 victories last season. Indeed, Newcastle have won just one of the last eight meetings at all venues. The last six at the Stadium of Light have yielded two wins for Sunderland and one for Newcastle.
Sunderland really need to take all three points in order to arrest their decline and at least maintain the one-point advantage they currently have over the bottom three. Advocaat has said that he wants to see aggression and a strong work-rate from his side on Sunday and it is likely they will come out of the gates quickly in search of an early goal.
Newcastle have little left to play for between now and the end of the season. They are out of both cup competitions, have no realistic chance of qualifying for Europe through their league position and currently have a comfortable 10-point cushion over the bottom three. There is, though, some incentive to go for victory on Sunday given their hosts’ perilous position.
However, with Cisse suspended it is unlikely that either side has the necessary firepower to secure victory. Three of the last six meetings at the Stadium of Light have ended in draws and that is again likely be the result on Sunday.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 23/10 with SkyBet.
- Sunderland have failed to score in five of their last six league matches, while Newcastle only scored three times themselves over that same period. This seems set to be a low-scoring match. Therefore, bet on less than 1.5 goals in each half @ 11/10 with Stan James.