Sunderland head into the latest edition of the Wear-Tyne derby in desperate need of three points, with the Black Cats currently just one point above the bottom three. Meanwhile, Newcastle are still not in danger of getting relegated, but the Magpies are very motivated to finally enjoy some success over their bitter rivals having lost last four meetings with the Stadium of Light outfit.
It was the impressive finish to the previous Premiership campaign that saw Sunderland avoid the drop, and the Black Cats might need another strong finish if they are to survive this season. The club chiefs finally lost patience with Gus Poyet, bringing former Netherlands boss Dick Advocaat to replace him, but it remains to be seen whether the Dutch coach can quickly sort things out at the Stadium of Light. The new manager used a 4-3-3 formation in his first game in charge against West Ham, but his side continued to fire blanks, with the Hammers scoring late to secure all three points. The likes of Defoe, Fletcher and Wickham could cause Newcastle’s makeshift defence all sorts of problems, but they will need some good service from midfield as well. It remains to be seen whether Adam Johnson will be given a chance to shine, but Lee Cattermole is available after serving a suspension, and he could return to the starting line-up, even though the midfielder has a habit of getting sent off in these kinds of matches. Creative players Ricky Alvarez, Emanuele Giaccherini and Will Buckley all miss out through injury and no doubts they will be missed on Sunday afternoon.
Bar a six-match winning run that spanned across five weeks in October and November, Newcastle have been pretty disappointing most of the time this season. In all fairness, the Magpies experienced all sorts of selection problems and they are expected to survive the current campaign, but the fans certainly expected more following the heavy summer recruitment. Alan Pardew decided to leave the sinking ship and took over the reigns at Crystal Palace, which proved a good decision for the manager, but no so much for Newcastle. His successor John Carver has struggled to get the maximum out of his side, and the Magpies head into the Wear-Tyne derby on the back of four defeats in five matches. The squad is still stripped to bare bones seeing as Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Demba Cisse are banned, while Siem de Jong, Steven Taylor, Rolando Aarons, Cheick Tiote and Massadio Haidara are out injured. The good news is that Mehdi Abeid could be back in contention, but full-back Daryl Janmaat will continue in the heart of defence. And with so many important players missing, it looks as though Newcastle will struggle to improve on their poor record in matches against Sunderland.
This match clearly has a much greater significance for Sunderland and while that is going to create an extra pressure, the Black Cats can be trusted to harass the out-of-sorts Newcastle from the off. The Magpies are not only out of confidence, but also have some key men on the sidelines, and I just cannot see them getting anything from the Stadium of Light.
Verdict: Sunderland Draw no bet
Best Odds: 8/11