Tyne-Wear derby stakes at all-time highest

April 10, 2013 in Premier League

This coming Sunday marks the day everybody in the north east of England has been waiting for. The battle of all battles. The war to possibly end all wars. I am, of course, talking about the Newcastle United vs. Sunderland derby.

One of the hottest contested derbies in the Premier League, it never lacks its moments, from red cards, dirty play, fights between teams, arguments with refs, to Shola putting the ball in the net in injury time, sending the Toon Army wild!

But with this derby, I’m not sure more has ever been on the line. Both teams are very much a part of the relegation scrap, with Newcastle five points clear of Sunderland, who really are teetering at the moment on 31 points along with Wigan, but Wigan do have that all important game in hand to consider. If Wigan won their game in hand, and Newcastle did in fact manage to beat Sunderland over the weekend, the Geordie boys would absolutely love it!

With new manager Paolo Di Canio in place, Sunderland looked like they might give Chelsea a scare, especially when Dave (as Cesar Azpilicueta is known by his team-mates) scored an own goal, just before half time. Just after half time, what did Sunderland do? That’s right, they scored an own goal too. But Di Canio has come out and said that he has a squad who have faith in him, which is more than can be said in the past; Martin O’Neill started brightly, but was seriously floundering, and sending them hurtling towards relegation. What is an interesting stat, though, is that the last two times Sunderland have fired a manager in March, they’ve been relegated both times, and right now, for me, it is between them and Stoke. Wigan can climb, as can Villa, but Stoke and Sunderland just aren’t picking up points.

PaoloDiCanio

Newcastle, on the other hand, have risen from the dead. At one point this season, many fans were speculating that relegation could be on the cards, and form was actually worse than the relegation season of 08/09 at several points. But at home, Newcastle have started to build a little fortress again, with the help of one Papiss Cissé, who has guided in three goals in the league at St. James’ Park in injury time in their last three home games. But it is not all down to him. Many are still considering him to be having a poor season, but the team is building from strength to strength; while mistakes were aplenty in the Europa League quarter final against Benfica, they had ironed out all the details against Fulham, dominating the game for the most part, and after a handball in the area, three hits against the woodwork, and countless occasions where they were applying pressure, Newcastle finally managed to put the ball into the back of the net. Cissé is definitely starting to look like his old self again! Most of the squad is back to full fitness too, and apart from the omissions of Debuchy and Coloccini, it was a very strong side, and you could see that against the Cottagers.

While Newcastle have a very international squad (mainly French, but still), I would like to see them go back to their roots for this match, and play some home grown talent. Obviously Stevie Fistpumps (Steven Taylor) will be on the pitch, and expect the Mackem Slayer, Shola Ameobi, to feature in some capacity, if he does not start. I would like to see a start for the young and energetic Adam Campbell too, who I believe could really stretch the Sunderland defence with his pacy runs.

But I expect this to be the game to light a fire under Sunderland’s bellies. If they do not come out all guns blazing in this match, I can’t see who they would against. This is the perfect match at the perfect time for them, and they need a win, a lot more than Newcastle do. That being said, they have Titus Bramble, which counteracts a lot of work for their squad, and I believe if Cissé can play well off Luisao and Hangeland, he could easily deal with the ex-Newcastle defender, who hardly left an imprint on those Geordie hearts during his time there.

It’s tough to call, and at this moment in time, I am not going to make a solid prediction, as… well, I’m scared I’ll put a jinx on it all.

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