Welcome back, FA Cup!
A third-round matchup between Sunderland and Newcastle will take place at the Stadium of Light on the day of the Three Wise Men, Jan. 6, and Eddie Howe will surely be hoping for a gift in the shape of a much-needed win that allows him to live at the post at least one more day.
Sunderland is coming off a 2-0 win in the Championship over Preston North End while Newcastle suffered a 4-2 defeat against Liverpool in the Premier League, their fourth in the last five games and seventh in eight matches across all competitions.
Michael Beale has helped Sunderland improve a bit of late, claiming seven points from their last three games, including victories against Hull City and Preston most recently on their way to entering the weekend sitting fourth in the English second-flight division.
Newcastle, led by manager Eddie Howe at least through this game but perhaps not through Saturday’s midnight, is enduring quite a challenging couple of months (one gone, the other one ahead of them) with four consecutive losses and seven defeats in their last eight games.
The recent losses meant NUFC crashed out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Chelsea, the Champions League (and Europa League, by extension) by losing to AC Milan, and most recently a Premier League loss to Liverpool on New Year.
Newcastle won’t have suspended Sandro Tonali as well as banged-up Callum Wilson, Kieran Trippier, Joe Willock, Nick Pope, Jacob Murphy, Elliot Anderson, Harvey Barnes, Matt Targett, and Javi Manquillo, all of them expected to be ruled out with different and multiple injuries.
Enjoy this one, folks, no matter the end result. It might be the last time we watch Howe coaching the Magpies, and it’s worth remembering he was the man lifting the club from the deepest places to UCL qualification.
Here are some of Howe’s Wisdom Nuggets, courtesy of NUFC.co.uk
On the prospect of the 156th Tyne-Wear derby...
“I am expecting a good performance from us - we are ready. We know what this fixture means to everyone. We know the importance of this fixture. The players know what it means. For us, it is important that we get back to winning ways.”
On the latest news regarding the Magpies squad’s fitness and availability...
“We are going to give (Kieran Trippier) a late test today and see where he is tomorrow.
“Callum (Wilson) isn’t too bad, but enough to keep him out of this game and our next game – but hopefully we can get him back for the game with Aston Villa.”
On the need to secure a first win of 2024 and progress in the competition...
“Our next game is our next opportunity to turn our form around. We are very much focusing on our performance and trying to deliver the best account of ourselves as we can.
“It is our opportunity to progress in the cup competition. We have to individually be at our best levels.”
On Sunderland, who currently sit sixth in the Championship table...
“Sunderland are a very good team, full of young and bright prospects. We do not underestimate the challenge - we have given them full respect in our preparation.
“But, of course, it is going to be about what we can do and how we can play and execute our plan.”
On United’s 6,000-strong travelling support...
“You want your away support to be there in numbers, and they have been this season. They have been incredible on the road for us.
“We want to repay that support with our best performance. I am very proud of our supporters - they’ve given us a lot.”
- Date: Saturday, Jan. 6th
- Kick-off: 12:45 BST / 7:45 EST
- Location: Stadium of Light, Sunderland (England)