20th October 2012
Given that both sides enter the Wear-Tyne derby on the back of 3-0 defeats to Manchester rivals, we can certainly expect an open game at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland and Newcastle have both had a slow start to the season and this is a perfect opportunity for one of the sides to kick-start their campaign.
Having been surprisingly inactive for most of the summer transfer window, Sunderland looked destined for another mediocre season, but the signings of Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson changed everything. With the Scottish striker proving to be a perfect replacement for Nicklas Bendtner, and the England international adding much needed creativity to the side, the Black Cats started the season well, even if they have yet to realize their full potential. It is the difficult fixture list that is mostly to blame for the fact that Sunderland picked up just 7 points from first 6 league games, with the 3-0 defeat at Etihad Stadium arguably the only under-par result of their campaign. Home win over Wigan and 1-1 draw with Liverpool should keep the Black Cats in good stead for one of the biggest games of the season, especially as they will have a couple of players back to the side. Phil Bardsley and James McClean should both return, but Titus Bramble is doubtful and Phil Bardsley is suspended.
The fifth-place finish and some impressive showings last season created a pressure of expectations at St James Park in off season, and Newcastle have so far struggled to cope. The Magpies did only lose to Chelsea and Manchester United (twice), but they also recorded five draws in all competitions, which is a bit too much for this stage of the season. After taking 9 points from 7 games, Alan Pardew’s side sit no less than five points behind European places, meaning they have no choice but to try and beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. That could prove to be a tricky task following the 3-0 home defeat to United, especially as the Magpies have yet to win away this season. Newcastle’s chances will be significantly improved if at least one of Tim Krul, Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini passes the fitness test ahead of the trip to Sudnerland.
Sunderland have shown a lot of promise in the opening exchanges and they don’t deserve to be in the bottom half of the standings. Newcastle, on the other hand, are still searching for their form, but having failed to win any of their last six away games, the Magpies don’t look capable of sneaking a win here. This is likely to be a tight game, but Sunderland might just edge it out.
Verdict: Home win Sunderland (1)
Best Odds: 13/8