It’s time for our annual jolly down to Village of the Damned to take in the unwashed at the Stadium of Light. I can just about hear the banjo-twanging and sound of 1p and 2p pieces being sharpened as I type.
This match needs no build up. It needs no hard sell. It’s the one that fans of both sides look out for when the fixtures come out, and this season it comes earlier than ever. Bragging rights are standard and local pride is up for grabs. Going back to work after a Derby Day defeat is an insufferable feeling that is hard to take – just ask any Sunderland fan.
So what better place to start the build up to the big match than our widely respected match preview? As ever I’ll start with the home side.
John O’Shea is in with a shout of making his debut for the unwashed as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Other debutants in waiting are Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner after both watched the 1-1 draw with Liverpool last week from the bench. Asamoah Gyan should be fit to feature after recovering from an injury picked up last week.
I don’t expect the unwashed team to be much changed from last week in truth. To their credit they played well against a disjointed and lacklustre Liverpool side who struggled after an initial opening 35-minute bombardment. The team named by Mrs Doubtfire last week looked a bit like this.
Sunderland: Simon Mignolet, Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown, Kieron Richardson, Anton Ferdinand, Lee Cattermole, Sebastian Larsson, Jack Colback, Ahmed Elmohamady, Stephane Sessegnon, Asamoah Gyan.
Newcastle are still awaiting the arrival of the left-back that was supposedly going to be arriving this week whilst the striker the ongoing hunt for a striker continues in vain.
With that in mind I’d imagine that we’ll be seeing Ryan Taylor at left-back again. Now he isn’t my favourite player, but I’ll give him some credit and say that he done OK against Gervinho and Theo Walcott last weekend. If he can do the same this weekend against Seb Larsson then I may just cut him some slack. Maybe.
Also our pair of starting strikers are unlikely to change with Demba Ba and Shola “Mackemslayer” Ameobi set to get the nod unless something dramatic happens between now and noon today or unless Alan Pardew decides to alter his tactics for the game. Different game – different gameplan maybe?
In terms of injuries and fitness, Sylvain Marveaux and Shane Ferguson came through 90 minutes of a reserve match during the week, which is great but I’d still be surprised to see them given a starting berth. A place on the bench looks most likely if anything.
The midfield area is the key area in this game. We dominated that area of the pitch last season and look what happened. It will be vitally important this time around aswell, and looking at what we have in midfield we have all the ingredients to once again come out on top in that department.
Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye are all battling to play in the middle of the pitch, with Barton also being up against the likes of Gabriel Obertan – who impressed while making his debut last weekend – for a place on the right-wing.
On a personal level I’d be tempted to utilise the strength we have in midfield to our advantage. Joey Barton has to play as he can wind them up while Cheik Tiote had the Sunderland midfield in his pocket last season. After another week of fitness training behind him and he will be capable of doing the same again. Maybe as a wildcard we could drop a striker and play Yohan Cabaye as an attacking midfielder in the hope that he can replicate the form of his most productive Lille season where he bagged 15 goals from that same advanced position?
I’d go with a team that looks a little like this:
Newcastle (4-4-1-1): Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Joey Barton, Chiek Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Yohan Cabaye, Shola Ameobi*.
* Shola simply has to play against Sunderland.
Facts and stats
There has not been a 0-0 draw between Newcastle and Sunderland since the inception of the Premier League and the games between the two sides average 2.8 goals per game.
Sunderland have won one of the last 13 encounters between the two sides. Overall there have been 146 meetings with Newcastle being the top dogs having come out on top 52 times compared to Sunderland’s 46.
Sunderland have lost six of their last seven home matches since drawing 1-1 with Newcastle in the corresponding fixture last season. They have lost 10 of their last 15 Premier League games, mustering only 11 points in that time and have not kept a clean sheet at home in eight matches since a 3-0 victory over Blackburn on New Year’s Day.
Statistically Alan Pardew is a better manager than Steve Bruce. Pardew has managed a win percentage of 42.91% from his 550 managerial games whilst Bruce has only won 37.02% of his 570 managerial games. In terms of the Premier League, Pardew has an overall winning percentage of 32% ahead of Steve Bruce’s 27%.
Mind you, Newcastle have only won one game in the last eight matches although they have picked up an average of one point per game in that time. Dare I say it, but I’d take that on Saturday lunchtime.
Cheik Tiote has been booked in his last six consecutive matches. It’s likely he’ll get his seventh in seven tomorrow. Another player looking for seventh heaven is Shola Ameobi who is searching for his seventh goal in ten games against the filth.
I’m getting the pre-derby nerves. I’ve had them for days in truth although I had assumed that it was copious amounts of Cauliflower Cheese doing what it does best. I’ve had excitement and anxiety with many many more feelings wedged between them. It will only get worse as the clock counts down to kick-off.
I’m not predicting any result. I’ve become wise enough to stop doing that as my predictions are awful and anything can happen on Derby Day. Nothing less than 100% effort will do though.
Howay the lads!
Date: Saturday, 20th August, 2011.
Ground: Stade du Shoite.