The stakes couldn’t be higher for Newcastle or Sunderland as bragging rights take a back seat in Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby at St James’ Park. The Magpies gave themselves a five-point cushion above the relegation zone after Papiss Cisse’s injury time winner earned them a fourth straight home win and are in high-spirits despite exiting the Europa League at the quarter-final stage on Thursday. A spirited display against Champions League dropouts Benfica on Tyneside wasn’t enough to see them through as they lost 4-2 on aggregate following the 1-1 draw. And manager Alan Pardew will be keen to ensure the sting of elimination doesn’t mentally and physically impact on his players in what is certain to be pressure cooker atmosphere. Interestingly this will be Pardew’s fifth derby experience during his time at Newcastle and he is yet to taste defeat. But as we all know form is irrelevant in this fixture.
The bigger picture for Sunderland is they NEED to start winning football matches if Premier League survival is to be achieved. Plenty of positives came out of Paolo Di Canio’s first game in charge despite it ending in defeat to Chelsea. The Italian is now tasked with masterminding the Black Cats’ first Tyne-Wear derby victory since 2008 with all the odds stacked against him. But there is no better place to start rebuilding that winning mentality than at the home of your most fierce adversary. Throughout his career as a player and manager Di Canio has resembled a lion back into corner. And he’s always come out fighting, claws sharpened, ready to rip adversity to shreds. That’s where the Sunderland players need to draw their inspiration from on Sunday if they’re to pick up speed on the road to salvation.
Steven Taylor faces a race against time to be fit for Newcastle after a minor knee problem kept him out of the Europa League defeat by Benfica. Yoan Gouffran was ineligible for the game but is expected to return while Hatem Ben Arfa is likely to start on the bench after making his comeback. Fabricio Coloccini (back), Davide Santon and Cheick Tiote (both hamstring) are still out.
Sunderland are without Craig Gardner after the midfielder collected his 10th booking of the season at Chelsea last week incurring a ban. Carlos Cuellar (ankle) and striker Danny Graham (knee) have trained this week and could be back but Connor Wickham is a doubt after picking up a knock.
What the managers said…
“Our next target after going out tonight is to try to secure a top-10 finish if we can. With all the injuries we have had and the credible performance we have put in in Europe, I would have to take that as a real learning curve for us in terms of the injuries we have sustained. The next time we go into Europe, we need to be better prepared than we were at the start of this season.” Alan Pardew is aiming for a top-10 finish after being eliminated from the Europa League (Telegraph Sport)
I don’t understand why the police ask this. I don’t feel anything. I don’t hear them. I will hear the Sunderland fans who will be much louder than the 50,000 of Newcastle. I will absorb their energy. When I was a footballer, the away fans were an extra lift. “Away from home they would sing Paolo Di Canio and I wanted to score and celebrate. It is not an issue for me. I don’t have any problem.” Paolo Di Canio insists any taunts during the Tyne-Wear derby will fire him up (The Sun)
Pre-Match Statistic: Shola Ameobi’s seven goals in 13 Premier League games against Sunderland is more than he’s managed against any other top-flight side.
Prediction: Newcastle United 2-0 Sunderland