Yesterday offered good news that the Newcastle side will be almost fully fit, with Enrique, Saylor, Ameobi, and Jonas all looking fit to play, although Big Andy is still questionable and Chiek Tiote will serve the first game of his suspension for that bogus red card in the FA cup.
The bad guys are all fit as well, missing no one of any particular import, with Cattermole's back feeling better and Zenden back from suspension.
Both sides are coming off incredibly embarrassing losses in the FA cup, and both have the same record in the same order in their last five league games: W-L-L-W-W. But; the good guys do have two important legs up in this match. Newcastle have only lost once in the last twelve times the derby has been played, and of course we hold in our pocket the 5-1 shellacking from earlier in the season. A win like that can work in either direction though. Surely the M*ckems will attempt to motivate themselves with that loss in their memory so we must be ready for a tough fight.
Keys to Victory:
Since he's back we may want to keep an eye on Lee Cattermole. I'm sure he'll be itching to right the wrongs of late October. This can make a dangerous man even more dangerous. I'm confident that the defense can handle him, but if they lose track of him we may be digging the ball out of the back of the net.
If Big Andy is indeed out on Sunday, the other strikers will have to step up big time. At the risk of sounding obvious, we'll need to score to win the game. What I mean to say is that we'll need to have an effective offense for the entirety of the game, not just poach a goal and sit on it.
The midfield will need to be in top form with Tiote serving suspension. The games this team wins convincingly are won with a stifling midfield. Someone will have to step up while Tiote is out.
Dangers for Defeat:
Bad marking will get us in trouble quickly against this S*nderland squad. They have plenty of pace to cause problems in front of our goal. If we can't mark our men, or get cute with offside traps it could cost us.
Reminiscing about the 5-1 win will have us on the back foot right quick. We cannot expect this team to roll over just because we showed them what for in the last derby. We need to take them just as seriously as any other Premiership team.
Inability to adapt to a new game plan will undo us before we get started if we aren't careful. I doubt that the M*ckems think all they need to do is fix mistakes to rebound off that big loss. They'll be trying new ways to get to us, not trying to do the old stuff better. We can adapt and win, or be inflexible and lose.
Prediction: NUFC 3-2 SAFC