Happier times for Sunderland which desperately needs wins. Source: Ian Macnicol/AAP
Despite suffering just one loss in its past eight League outings, Sunderland remains in the relegation danger zone. Five wins and six draws this season have earned the Black Cats 21 points, just two clear of the teams occupying the dreaded bottom-three spots. Coming off a 1-0 home victory over fellow-struggler Stoke City, Sunderland’s recent road form is encouraging. Gus Poyet’s troops are unbeaten in their past five away matches, having beaten second-bottom Fulham 4-1 and Everton 1-0 during that period.
The Geordies are smarting ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby after being held 0-0 mid-week by Norwich at Carrow Road and losing key midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain. Newcastle eased some of the pain caused by Cabaye’s departure with the loan signing of Dutch striker Luuk De Jong from Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach. De Jong is hoping to play a leading role in this weekend’s derby. Desperate to bolster their roster, the Magpies aren't happy after missing out on French international Clement Grenier from Lyon this week.
The Magpies took a while to re-ignite their campaign post-Christmas after going down to Arsenal and West Brom 1-0 and 2-0 to Manchester City. The Toon ended that horror run downing strugglers West Ham 3-1, before the mid-week stalemate. Newcastle is likely to be without Yoan Gouffran, Papiss Cisse and Fabricio Coloccini. Loic Remy lost his appeal against a red card at Norwich and must serve a week’s suspension.
Sunderland won the Stadium of Light fixture earlier this season 2-1. But that was the Black Cats' only victory in their first ten EPL matches and they’ve been playing catch-up ever since.
The Tyne-Wear derby is a seriously hostile and passionate clash – one which is in danger of becoming totally toxic. The rivalry between two cities around 20kms apart has turned into hatred, soured by violence and aggression which threatens crowd trouble. At the corresponding fixture in April last year won by Sunderland 3-0 , there were over 100 arrests.
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