Perhaps you've heard, as I believe OsotP has been making some noise about it, but this happens to be derby week against Sunderland. Simon Walsh, and his good lads over at SBNation's own Roker Report, were kind enough to answer some questions ahead of Sunday's excited (albeit crushingly early in the morning) fixture. Given the gravity of the match, I've put my own reactions in the block quotes underneath each answer.
Obviously, as Newcastle fans, we were crushed with the firing of #DoubleAgentBruce. We lost a good member of the NUFC family that day. That being said, O'Neill has Sunderland playing absolutely cracker football, and as Simon noted, the team we play on Sunday will be a complete and total 180 from the one we faced all the way back in August. Much tougher match this time around, to be sure.
More great responses and analysis after the jump!
Given their success in the FA Cup, this is totally understandable. As OsotP noted a few days ago, Sunderland has been far more worried about staying up in the table than finishing in "respectable" position as of late. That being said, a top ten finish for both squads would only heighten the derby's prominence and excitement, so I'm begrudgingly rooting for it. Clearly, the FA Cup is going to take priority given that their final placing between 7 and 17 matters very little.
I'll be honest, I asked the question with tongue firmly planted in cheek and a huge smirk on my face. That being said, it has been nice not even having to entertain the question of final finishing position between the two rivals. I was hoping that our success would get under their skin a little bit, kind of a like a puppy whose nose you rub in its own mess... though I suppose we'll just have to gloat amongst ourselves. While I admit Sunderland finishing above us would irk me, I don't think I'd care that much when juxtaposed with our overall season performance, which would always take precedence.
Sessegnon is obviously the player that worries me most. With Gyan on that mildly absurd loan deal, Sess is clearly the Cat's major weapon now, and he seems to have a decent back and forth with Bendtner in attack. Our back line has been... shoddy, to say the least, as of late. I think Colo can match up well with Bendtner, but with Sess and Larsson sneaking on the flanks of the attack, we could be in for some trouble unless Williamson steps up majorly.
I was fascinated by this response. While Kyrgiakos hasn't suited up yet for the Cats, I still remember him as a very solid player, and I was amazed that Simon didn't want to keep him even as insurance. I was also a little surprised that he doesn't see Bendtner as important, especially given that Denmark native, while only popping in three goals, has made 17 starts up front for the Mackems. I suppose when Gyan returns all striker woes in Sunderland will be quickly forgotten. I think Bridge will probably make his stay at the Stadium of Light permanent, but we'll see how the summer ends up.
I was fond of the dig at the end. Well played, sir. Granted, when we lift Europa Gold next year it'll be nice to rub in the Mackem's face *cough cough.* Still, he is correct that NUFC had a disappointing run in both domestic cups this year, and that Sunderland's success in the FA Cup is something for the North East to "kinda" celebrate. I also agree that O'Niell going all in on the Cup is the only logical way to go. These last few rounds should be amazing.
Interesting, and thorough, prediction. If Chiek gets sent off, I would agree that Newcastle would be hard pressed to come up with an answer in midfield (all respect to Dan Gosling, of course). I could also see a contentious moment brewing, though I hope it doesn't. I think this derby will be an amazing contest given Sunderland's recent run of form and the success that Newcastle has seen this season. My hope: 5-0 Magpies. A more realistic prediction though is 4-3, with both defenses struggling, and even a Sessegnon hat trick won't be enough for the Scum to overcome a brace from Ba and chips from Cisse and HBA. Howay the lads!