The Magpies can grab an overdue derby success
It must be something to do with the sight of those black and white striped shirts because every Sunderland side that squares up against arch-rivals Newcastle United in the players’ tunnel seems to suddenly become world-beaters.
The Mackems have won the last four Tyne-Wear derbies and have plenty of incentive to take another three points against the Magpies. This fixture invokes just as much passion as a Merseyside, Manchester or north London derby – the teams have, after all, been rivals since 1898.
Newcastle still lead in head-to-head results but that gap is closing and Sunderland have only lost once to the team just up the A1 since 2011, though they’ve only won two of the last 12 at the Stadium Of Light.
This, however, is not a match that traditionally produces a lot of goals – the rivalry is too intense for that. Their last eight meetings have produced no more than three goals but we are offering 11/4 in the Totals market that there is more than 3.5 goals this time.
Adam Johnson was Sunderland’s last-minute match-winner at St James Park back in December in a match which saw eight yellow cards. The controversial former England winger returned to action off the bench at West Ham two weeks ago but is unlikely to be risked from the start for such a big game. Instead, Dick Advocaat will be hoping that Steven Fletcher can carry on where he left off for Scotland last week and fire his club side to maximum points.
Advocaat played three strikers at West Ham in his first game in charge and is likely to adopt a positive approach against Newcastle as well, though may have to give key defender Wes Brown a late fitness test.
United hardly arrive in the best of form themselves for this game having won just one of their last seven. They’ve lost the last three, though should have taken something out of their home match with Arsenal two weeks ago despite gifting the Gunners a two-goal lead. John Carver will remain in charge until the end of the season but only Mike Ashley knows what will happen after that.
What is clear is that the Magpies will have to spend big money if they are to compete in the top half of the table – merely posting record profits won’t appease the Gallowgate faithful and there is a distinct lack of overall quality in the current squad, though midfielder Jack Colback will be looking forward to meeting up again with former team-mates this weekend.
United’s players probably can’t wait for the season to end but their performance against Arsenal suggested that they are not yet packing for the beach. They’ll be up for this one and can cash in on Sunderland’s desperation by gaining an overdue derby win at 39/20. The visitors are 17/5 to win by one goal.
The match kicks off at 4.00pm on Sunday, April 5 at the Stadium Of Light.