Newcastle United vs Sunderland
Sunday 21st December – 13:30 – St.James’ Park
In perhaps the most fiercest rivalry in England, Newcastle United host old foes Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby at St James’ Park on Sunday lunchtime, hoping to give a much-needed lift to their supporters after a disappointing past week in both league and cup. The Magpies lost 4-1 at Arsenal in the Premier League last Saturday evening, before then going down 4-0 to Tottenham Hotspur, again in north London, in their Capital One Cup quarter-final clash on Wednesday night. All of which means that Alan Pardew’s men will be desperate for a change of fortune this weekend against a Black Cats side who are unbeaten in their last five top-flight matches against Newcastle, a run that includes three straight wins against their rivals. No Sunderland side has ever won four in a row against the Magpies. The visitors have won on each of their previous two trips to St James’, both matches finishing 3-0, and with Gustavo Poyet and Co this season’s draw specialists in the Premier League – they have already been held 10 times so far this campaign – the Wearsiders will be confident of extending their recent unbeaten run against Newcastle. A win will be important to both teams though, as the Christmas fixture list begins to get into full swing.
The Key Battle: John O’Shea vs Papisse Cisse
John O’Shea has already said that there will be no pleasantries on Sunday and hasn’t lost against Newcastle in the four games he has played for the Black Cats.
He is an experienced player in derby games from his time at Manchester United and knows what these types of games mean to the fans. The 33 year old has had a steady season so far and has worked well with Wes Brown to create a defensive line that has become relatively solid. He will have his hands full this weekend though with the return of Papisse Cisse, Newcastle’s top scorer this season.
Cisse’s double at Chelsea weren’t difficult goals to score but he still has the capability of making things difficult for defenders.
He has played a part in a couple of derby games but hasn’t been in a team that have beaten Sunderland yet and after having Wednesday’s game off against Tottenham he will be fully rested and prepared for Sunday and will want to continue his purple patch.
- Jak Alnwick will continue in goal for The Magpies despite suffering a shoulder injury against Tottenham in midweek.
- Alan Pardew will assess the fitness of top scorer Papisse Cisse, who missed the League Cup game at White Hart Lane with a virus.
- Defender Darryl Janmaat will return from a one game suspension, while Moussa Sissoko, Sammy Ameobi, Steven Taylor and Cheick Tiote are all likely to be fit.
- Gus Poyet is expected to change things around upfront, by replacing Jozy Altidore with Steven Fletcher in the starting line-up.
- Italy international Emanuele Giaccherini, who has been out since September could return to the action, after training with the squad this week.
- However, Billy Jones (hamstring) will be given another week to build up match-fitness, while fellow full-back Patrick van Aanholt continues his recovery from a dislocated shoulder.
Newcastle United wins = 53 / Sunderland wins = 50 / Draws = 49
Last Meeting: Newcastle United 0-3 Sunderland (1st February 2014)
Sunderland earned their third successive derby win over a poor Newcastle to move further clear of the Premier League relegation zone. Fabio Borini gave the Black Cats the lead from the spot after Vurnon Anita’s clumsy challenge on Phil Bardsley. Adam Johnson doubled the advantage after a deflection took Jack Colback’s (then of Sunderland) shot away from goalkeeper Tim Krul. Newcastle improved in the second half, but were hit on the counter-attack by Colback’s smart finish ten minutes from time. In the week that they had lost Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain, the Magpies, who were booed at half-time and the final whistle, extended their recent run of disappointing results to only one win in seven games.
Stat of the Match
Newcastle have not lost at home since the opening day of the season – when they were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City.
Where can I watch it?
The derby is the first game in Sky Sports 1’s Super Sunday Coverage, which begins at 12:30 pm, with the match starting an hour later. Alternatively, the highlights will be on Match of the Day 2 this evening, BBC Two at 10:25 pm.
My Prediction: Newcastle United 2-1 Sunderland
Newcastle are on a very good run at home, and I expect that to continue today, despite Sunderland’s recent record at St. James’ Park. Papisse Cisse will score twice for Alan Pardew’s side, but derby day always fires the Sunderland players up, and they should get on the score sheet, through Adam Johnson.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Sunday 21st December – 16:00 – Anfield
Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing defeat at Old Trafford when they host Arsenal in today’s second Premier League fixture. Brendan Rodgers’ men slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United just days after crashing out of the Champions League, and the Reds boss is coming under increased scrutiny amid rumours of discord in the squad. Arsenal, meanwhile, have been suffering with an inconsistent spell of their own, but since losing 3-2 at Stoke they have registered back-to-back 4-1 wins over Galatasaray and Newcastle and have put themselves right back in the top-four mix. The Gunners will fancy their chances of making the Champions League quarter-finals after drawing Wenger’s old club, Monaco, in the last 16, but first up is a key Christmas period which could put them among the title challengers.
The Key Battle: Raheem Sterling vs Calum Chambers
After impressing with his two goals in midweek, Raheem Sterling is likely to start as the Reds’ centre-forward and will target Callum Chambers as the Gunners’ weak link.
The 20 year old, who is naturally a winger, was wasteful against Manchester United at Old Trafford last Sunday, often finding his route to goal blocked by the magnificent David De Gea, but will fancy his chances of getting on the scoresheet with Laurent Koscielny sidelined through injury.
Chambers has looked unsure of himself at right-back but Arsene Wenger will hope playing him alongside Per Mertesacker sees him shut out Sterling and cope with the Englishman’s rapidity and potency. The 19 year old is returning from suspension after getting sent off at Stoke two weeks ago.
Failure to do so could see him replicate the same performance as when the sides met earlier this year, with Sterling netting twice as the Reds obliterated them 5-1 back in February.
Who will come out on top in the battle between these two promising English youngsters?
- Mario Balotelli serves a one-match ban for breaking Football Association rules on social media, so Raheem Sterling could start upfront.
- Brendan Rodgers could have Dejan Lovren (groin) available if the defender passes a late fitness test, while Joe Allen may return to the squad after missing the trip to Bournemouth in midweek.
- Glen Johnson (groin) is set to be out until the middle of January, as is striker Daniel Sturridge, who flew out to Boston this week to aid his recovery from a thigh injury.
- Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott all face fitness tests.
- Wenger fears midfielder Aaron Ramsey will miss the hectic festive fixture schedule with his hamstring problem, but Calum Chambers is back from suspension.
- Laurent Koscielny (calf), Mikel Arteta (calf), Mesut Ozil (knee), David Ospina (thigh), Abou Diaby (calf), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (thigh) and Serge Gnabry (knee) are all still out for the visitors.
Liverpool wins = 76 / Arsenal wins = 71 / Draws = 50
Last Meeting: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (16th February 2014)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored one and set up the other as Arsenal earned a degree of revenge on Liverpool to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals last season The Gunners, who had been thrashed 5-1 at Anfield in the Premier League the week before hand, led when Oxlade-Chamberlain guided in a loose ball after 16 minutes. The England winger provided the cross for Lukas Podolski to fire in from 15 yards at the start of the second half. Steven Gerrard converted a penalty but Liverpool could not force an equaliser to earn a replay.
Stat of the Match
Liverpool vs Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks (five) than any other fixture in Premier League history.
Where can I watch it?
The match follows the Tyne-Wear derby on Sky Sports 1, starting at 3:30 pm, and kick-off is at 4 pm. Alternatively, the highlights will be on Match of the Day 2 this evening, BBC Two at 10:25 pm.
My Prediction: Liverpool 1-3 Arsenal
There’s always lots of goals in this fixture, and I don’t think this match will be any different. Arsenal are on a high after two great wins, and may well come out on top again in this game. I think Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck will score for the visitors, with Steven Gerrard getting The Red’s consolation.