Newcastle United begin life without Yohan Cabaye when they face Sunderland at St.James' Park on Saturday. The Magpies are coming off a disappointing result against Norwich City mid-week and need a win in order to get back within contention for a Europa League position.
Alan Pardew’s club will be looking for payback after losing the first Tyne-Wear derby of the season back on October 27th at the Stadium of Light. It was Gus Poyet’s first win with the club.
Until a few weeks ago, this would look like a mismatch on paper. However, despite Sunderland’s position in the table, the club’s performances have improved of late. Newcastle will be facing one of the Premier League’s hottest clubs on Saturday.
Sunderland have not lost in seven matches in all competitions. They recently eliminated Manchester United from the League Cup. And they remain alive in the FA Cup.
Sunderland seemed destined for relegation just weeks ago but have found new life under Uruguayan manager Gus Boyet. They are currently in 17th position, two points out of the relegation zone.
Newcastle, on the underhand, are probably going through their worst stretch of the season. They have only one win in their last six matches in all competitions. But a win against their bitter North-east rivals could just be the kick-start they need.
Injuries and Suspensions
Newcastle’s goal-less draw with Norwich City was costly in more ways than one. Striker Loic Remy lost his appeal this week and will begin serving his three-match suspension.
Hatem Ben Arfa limped off the field against Sunderland and it is uncertain whether he will play on Saturday. But fellow French international Yoan Gouffran is expected to return to action. Fabricio Coloccini remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Alan Pardew also told media on Thursday that he does not expect new signing Luuk De Jong to be available for Saturday. The Dutch forward has not seen any game action since mid-December.
Sunderland signed Argentine striker Ignacio Scocco from Internacional this week and he is expected to be on the bench. Fellow Argentinians, goalkeeper Oscar Ustari and defender Santiago Vergini should be available as well for the Black Cats.
Gus Poyet has used several different formations during his time at Sunderland but does seem to prefer using a single striker. For most of this season, American international Jozy Altidore has played up-front.
Altidore arrived from the Dutch league in the summer for a sizable €10 million but has been one of this season’s most disappointing performers. The striker has scored only two goals for the club.
Wingers Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini have been Sunderland’s most dangerous attackers this season. Midfielder Adam Johnson leads the team in goals with six. That includes five in the last three Premier League matches. Johnson should be the one to watch on Saturday.
Sunderland are not known for their goal scoring, having scored 22 goals in 23 matches. However, they do make clubs work hard for a victory. Emanuele Giaccherini and Sebastian Larsson should cause the Magpies problems in midfield as well.
Assuming that Newcastle do not lose any more players to the transfer market, Alan Pardew’s biggest challenge should be making up for the absence of Loic Remy, and of course, Yohan Cabaye. If healthy, Hatem Ben Arfa seems like an obvious replacement for Cabaye. But Newcastle do not have a legitimate replacement for Remy.
Sammy Ameobi started upfront with Remy in the last match against Norwich. Shola Ameobi has played alongside Remy this season as well. And there is Papiss Cissé, if he in fact does not move by Saturday.
Sunderland are in excellent form right now and would like nothing more to prolong the misery of their greatest rival. The Black Cats have had the advantage over the last four meetings between the two clubs, having won twice and drawn the other two.
Newcastle’s offence has gone dry in their last several matches. They have failed to score in four of their last five Premier League matches. And they have not scored in their last two matches at St. James’ Park. That includes loses to Arsenal and Manchester City.
But good clubs find a way to recovery from poor results. And Alan Pardew’s club has proven this season that they respond well to adversity. The Magpies overcome their rivals with a solid victory.
Newcastle United 2 – 0 Sunderland