Newcastle United’s early season ambitions of a top-seven finish have given way to reality. The Magpies currently sit in 12th position, one point behind Crystal Palace for 11th. The club could salvage a little dignity by finishing ahead of the club Alan Pardew defected to.
However, the gloom at Tyneside is nothing like they are experiencing at Sunderland. The Black Cats are out of the relegation zone for the moment but only one point ahead of 18th-place Burnley. The club have eight matches to avoid going down for the first time since 2006.
Sunderland relieved Gus Poyet of his coaching duties just before the international break and are hoping Dutchman Dick Advocaat could be their savior. When these two clubs meet, it is always a tense match, but Sunday’s match has far-reaching implications for Sunderland. Newcastle fans would like nothing more to dent their main rival’s chances to avoid relegation.
Injuries and Suspensions
Massadio Haidara had surgery on his knee last week and will not return to action this season. He joins Siem de Jong who will also not return after recovering from a collapsed lung. Steven Taylor was ruled out months ago because of a ruptured achilles tendon.
Rolando Aarons (hamstring), Paul Dummett (knee) and Cheick Tioté (knee) are all out and it is not clear whether any will play again this season. Fabricio Coloccini has two matches left on his red card suspension. While, Papiss Cissé will sit out the next five matches after his headbutting incident with Jonny Evans.
Sunderland have been without influential midfielder Ricardo Alvarez for the last few weeks. He remains a doubt for Sunday. English midfielder Will Buckley has been out since January because of a knee injury and is unlikely to return in time for this match. Emanuele Giaccherini has been out since February with a broken bone in his ankle and is unlikely to return this season. Adam Johnson has returned to action after being suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor.
Tactics and Possible Starting Line-Ups
Newcastle United are expected to go with the 4-2-3-1 formation, a stable under Alan Pardew. John Carver did experiment with the 4-4-2 formation prior to the international break, with little success. Tim Krul, Daryl Janmaat and Moussa Sissoko are all expected to be in the starting XI after returning from international duty.
The squad should look very similar to the one that lost 2-1 to Arsenal back on March 21st. Due to a number of serious injuries and the suspension of Coloccini, the club should field another makeshift backline with Janmaat at centre back. As well as Ryan Taylor and Jack Colback on the flanks.
It is always difficult to guess the manager’s plans so early into their tenure. In his first match as Sunderland boss, Advocaat used a 4-3-3 formation, with Jermaine Defoe as the striker. The club lost 1-0 on a late goal by West Ham.
Scoring goals has been Sunderland’s biggest problem this season. They sit next to last with 23 goals in 30 matches. Only Aston Villa has scored fewer but miraculously they remain ahead of Sunderland in the table. Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher lead the club in goals with four each. January signing Jermaine Defoe has two goals in nine matches since joining the club.
Sunderland are a desperate club. The Black Cats are without a victory in their last seven Premier League matches. They have only one victory in their last 13 matches in the league. They have been especially bad at home this season, with only two victories in 15 matches at the Stadium of Light.
However, Sunderland do have one thing going in their favour, that is their personal record against Newcastle. The club has won the last four matches against their rivals. Newcastle have not beaten Sunderland in their last six encounters overall.
Newcastle’s outlook is not much better. The Magpies have only two wins in 12 matches in 2015. And they have one win in their last nine league matches away from home. However, they should be well-supported in Sunday.
Sunderland have much more to play for than Newcastle. Still, the Magpies know the importance of this match to their fans. And no doubt they have memories of the tough 1-0 defeat to their rivals in December. A lack of motivation should not be an issue. Newcastle will deal a major blow to Sunderland by earning a victory.
Sunderland 1 – 2 Newcastle United