The Magpies have lost the last two matches by a combined score of 8-1. The latest was a 4-0 defeat to Spurs in midweek that saw them eliminated from the League Cup. After a stellar month of November, the club have reverted back to crisis mode.
And it will not get any easier because they face perennial Northeast rivals Sunderland on Sunday. Their opponents sit 15th in the table and have not registered a win in the last six matches. But regardless of the club’s current standing, Sunderland always seem to play well against Newcastle. And they would like nothing more to prolong their rival’s misery.
Injuries and Suspensions
Newcastle continue to be decimated by injuries. Papiss Cissé and Cheikh Tioté were noticeably absent from the mid-week encounter against Spurs. The two have struggled with fitness in recent weeks. Mehdi Abeid (broken toe) is also a doubt for Sunday’s match.
Tim Krul (ankle), Rob Eliott (thigh muscle), Rolando Aarons (Hamstring), Siem de Jong (thigh), Ryan Taylor (knee), Davide Santon (knee) and Gabriel Obertan (thigh) are all at least a few weeks away from returning. Jonas Gutierrez has not returned to the squad after battling cancer. Steven Taylor and Moussa Sissoko will be eligible to return after sitting out last week’s match against Arsenal due to suspension.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is blessed with a healthy squad. Dutch defender Patrick van Aaholt has been out several weeks with a shoulder injury. However, defender Billy Jones and attacker Emanuele Giaccherini could return to the line-up against Newcastle after injury layoffs.
Possible Line-Ups and Tactics
It appears that injuries are finally starting to take their toll on Newcastle. Poor results in back-to-back matches could force Alan Pardew to rethink his strategy. Pardew has gone with the 4-2-3-1 formation for much of this season and it has brought good success.
The Newcastle boss is unlikely to go with a different formation against Sunderland. The club’s bad form recently has less to do with tactics and more to do with an absence of personnel. Jak Alnwick will get the nod in goal once again, with Eliott and Krul both injured.
Cissé, Tioté, Darryl Janmaat and Sammy Ameobi did not play in the League Cup defeat to Spurs. If healthy, they should all return against Sunderland. Teenager Adam Armstrong played a half hour against Spurs and could see some action on Sunday as well.
Guy Poyet has used the 4-5-1 formation for most of this season. Although, the Uruguayan has used 4-3-3 on occasion as well. Steven Fletcher should start in the striker’s role. He leads the club in goals this season with four.
These two sides always seem to produce an memorable match. Sunderland have had the upper hand in recent encounters, having won three in a row. Newcastle have only one win against their rivals in the last seven matches. Sunderland beat Newcastle at St.James’ Park 3-0 last February. Jack Colback scored for Sunderland in that match.
St.James’ Park has been somewhat of a fortress of late. The Magpies have won four consecutive matches at home and are unbeaten in their last six overall. However, the club is coming off heavy defeats to Arsenal and Spurs on the road. A win against Sunderland would do much for their confidence ahead of games against Manchester United and Everton to finish the year.
Sunderland have only two league wins this season in 16 contests. The club has only one league win on the road this season, that was a 3-1 defeat of Crystal Palace on November 3rd. But Sunderland should have their supporters out in large numbers on Sunday. And they should be loud.
Sunderland seem destined to battle it out at the bottom of the table until the end of the season. They will undoubtedly look at this match as having special significance. Newcastle obviously has the advantage in terms of depth and talent but that has not mattered much in recent encounters.
The Magpies defeat of Chelsea likely served to mask some of the problems this squad currently has. Regardless, Newcastle is a much better club than they demonstrated in the heavy defeats to Arsenal and Spurs. Sunderland will keep it close but Newcastle get back on track with a victory.
Newcastle United 2 – 1 Sunderland