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Match Preview: Sunderland AFC vs. Newcastle United FC

Cheer up, Stevie Bruce...
Cheer up, Stevie Bruce...

Newcastle United and Sunderland will contest the Wear-Tyne Derby for the 143rd time on Saturday in what will be the earliest the two sides have met in recent memory. Last time these two teams met, Newcastle let two points slip away with an ill-advised fast break, leading to a Sunderland counterattack and ultimately an Asamoah Gyan goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to bring the final tally to 1-1. The Magpies will be trying to extend the lead they currently possess in all-time record, while the mackems will be looking for their second home win since 1980. As always, there's a ton on the line, but perhaps tensions will be even higher as there will be no opportunity for revenge until March. This week's match preview follows the jump.

Sunderland AFC vs. Newcastle United FC

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Season Preview

Match Preview | Game Thread

SBN Sunderland Blog: Roker Report

The Opponent

The Unwashed need no introduction. A lot of virtual ink has been spilled as both sides rush to condemn each other on the Internet, and I've got no desire to add to that noise, jokey nicknames aside. On the pitch, Sunderland are quite a different squad than the one that we last saw in January. Steve Bruce has just about brought in enough players to field an entirely new Starting XI. Sebastian Larsson and Wes Brown both made their presence felt in last week's draw at Anfield, and several other new boys featured as well. The mackems will likely field a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Stephane Sessegnon supporting the world-class (in my mind) Asamoah Gyan. They attack down the edges, though like us they are prone to settling for the long ball. Lee Cattermole (a curse be upon him) and Jack Colback will seek to control the pace in the midfield, which should make for some fun-to-watch battles with Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye.


Fraser Forster is out, which means there will be little mystery about which keeper sees the bench (Steve Harper). Alan Pardew promised to have a new striker and left back in before this game, but since this is Newcastle, that never came to fruition. Ryan Taylor will probably get the nod at left back once again, though Shane Ferguson might be fit. Similarly, Sylvain Marveaux's match fitness has been rumored but not confirmed. Whether Gabriel Obertan will start remains to be seen. If it were me, I would place him in the hole behind the striker (or strikers) since Hatem Ben Arfa is still out, but I fully expect Pardew to go with the vanilla 4-4-2, selecting Jonas Gutierrez over both Marveaux and Obertan.

Interesting Storyline

The Derby in and of itself qualifies here - what story could be bigger? The time of the fixture was once again changed to accommodate a request by the Northumbria police, a practice so commonplace now it has become an afterthought. Several dozen Sunderland fans notoriously stormed the pitch at the end of the last match played in this venue, one of them assaulting Steve Harper, and of course we're all hoping those sort of shenanigans don't see the light of day this time around. If I don't have to write a story about hooliganism next week, I'll consider it a minor miracle.


Realistically, Newcastle should be happy with a draw. The seasons of both Newcastle and Sunderland followed a similar trajectory last year, with both sides fading down the stretch and the mackems finishing just ahead of the Toon by one point. Only a fool would argue that Steve Bruce's side didn't "win" the transfer window, so by reduction, Sunderland should be the better side. You can usually throw that out the window when it comes to the Derby, however, and I fully expect a positive result. Perhaps I'm still riding the high of the 5-1 result of 10 months ago, and perhaps I'm a little puffed up with pride about drawing a weakened Top 4 side. Still, I have a good feeling about this. A win would do wonders for the confidence of this club as we approach the end of the transfer window, and a loss would be absolutely devastating. A draw would be like kissing your sister, as the saying goes. So...basically it's the same as every other Derby, but the early status of the season ups the ante even more.

Keys to Victory

  1. Newcastle must abandon the long ball game. It must be tempting to take this tactic when you have two strikers the size of Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi, but the truth is that neither were effective in the air last week. After a preseason in which Tim Krul showed uncharacteristic discretion and patience in his distribution, he reverted to his old ways in Week 1. Whether this is of his own volition or he is under orders from Pardew, it needs to stop. When the strikers fail to win balls, it takes the midfield (Newcastle's main strength) out of the game and puts them on their collective back foot. If they're forced to chase the ball, Lee Cattermole and company will dominate the middle of the pitch.
  2. by Guardian Chalkboards
  3. Crosses into the box must be accurate. Every aspect of this game must improve. 2 out of 15 is simply unacceptable.
  4. by Guardian Chalkboards
  5. Somebody should make sure that Shola knows it's the Derby. He'll be good to go.

Fearless Predictions

  • Cheik Tiote will avoid a booking. Hey, we said fearless.
  • One of our midfielders will score the game winner. I'll go ahead and go with Cabaye.
  • Steven Taylor will have a massive game, further cementing his place alongside Fabricio Coloccini.
  • SAFC 1, NUFC 2

Sunderland AFC

Currently: T-5th, 1 point, 0-1-0

Last Year:10th place, 47 points, 12-11-15

Out: None

Questionable: John O'Shea

Projected XI: Mignolet | Bardsley, Brown, Ferdinand, Richardson | Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, Elmohamady | Sessegnon | Gyan

Projected Subs: Westwood, Bramble, Gardner, Vaughan, Dong-Won, Wickham, Laing

Newcastle United FC

Currently: T-5th, 1 point, 0-1-0

Last Year: 12th place, 46 points, 11-13-14

Out: Hatem Ben Arfa (ankle)

Questionable: Sylvain Marveaux (fitness), Shane Ferguson (ankle), Danny Guthrie (ankle)

Projected XI: Krul | Simpson, STaylor, Coloccini, RTaylor | Barton, Tiote, Cabaye, Jonas | Shola, Ba

Projected Subs: Harper, Ferguson, Marveaux, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Best, Lovenkrands

Match Official: Howard Webb