Newcastle V Sunderland, the biggest game in the North-East, one of the biggest derbies in Europe, and some passionate supporters would argue, one of the biggest derbies in the world. The Tyne-Wear derby is often a very heated, loud tie and this one could have big consequences for Sunderland.
Sunderland are without a win in 9 games and level on points with Wigan who are 18th and have a game in hand. Relegation looks more and more likely for the Black Cats. Sunderland’s last gamble Paolo Di Canio seems to have had an immediate impact on Sunderland, with an impressive first half performance against Chelsea perhaps hinting at a possible survival. Sunderland though have not beat Newcastle in their last six Premier League fixtures and face a very tough game against Newcastle. The one plus for Sunderland is that their squad will be fresher, with Newcastle tired after losing to Benfica on Thursday.
Newcastle are in form having won four successive Premier League fixtures. They will hope that going out to Benfica motivates the squad; there were lots of possible positives in that game. Alan Pardew has never lost to Sunderland as manager as Newcastle and is very passionate, just like Paolo Di Canio. A repeat of the squaring up of both managers like the last Tyne-Wear tie looks likely. Pardew will expect to win his fifth derby and try to push for a top-half finish.
Sunderland have are without suspended midfield enforcer Craig Gardner after he picked up his tenth booking of the season. They will also potentially miss Newcastle fan Danny Graham and Carlos Cuellar. Both players face late fitness tests. Connor Wickham looks a doubt after picking up a knock against Chelsea. Newcastle are missing Coloccini and Santon but Steven Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran should all feature. This is a massive boost for Newcastle and with both squads on paper I would back Newcastle to win.
My Prediction: Newcastle 3 Sunderland 1
A match report will be out on Monday