Written by @Chadley_N for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Newcastle United vs Sunderland | Sunday 21 December | St. James' Park | 15:30
Super Sunday kicks off with arch-rivals Newcastle United and Sunderland resuming their bitter rivalry at St. James' Park. They may not be the most recognisable teams in world football but the Tyne-Wear derby, of which the clash is known, has been one of the biggest rivalries in England for decades and runs far deeper than just football. It is about two cities, just sixteen kilometres apart, who for centuries have had it out and competed with each other, characterised in the modern day by the hatred and resentment shared by two sets of fans when 22 players take to the field. You're either Newcastle, or you're Sunderland.
To Win (90mins)
Newcastle United 19/20
Newcastle United will be happy to return to St. James’ Park where they have won their last four matches, including victories against Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Liverpool. The Magpies were on the receiving end of a 4-1 thumping at the hands of a rampant Arsenal side last weekend but Alan Pardew will be hoping to bounce back strong against their local rivals. However, it won’t be an easy test as they’ve failed to beat Sunderland in the last five meetings, with the Black Cats winning the last three ties. You have to go back to August 2011, during Pardew’s first full season in charge, for a Toon victory over Sunderland; a statistic which is simply not good enough. In recent seasons Sunderland players have shown a better level of understanding of the fixture than Newcastle and dented what was once a superb and proud derby record. This weekend will be a test of their consistency. Newcastle wouldn’t be where they are in the Premier League table, eighth, if they weren’t capable. You could even argue that Pardew shouldn’t need to lift his players after their defeat at Arsenal. If they want to be heroes in the Tyne-Wear derby and still talked about in years to come - now is the time to show it. Pardew won around many of those who just a few weeks ago were calling for his head but he will undo all that positivity if he puts out the white flag before a ball has even been kicked.
After another draw, at home to West Ham United, Gustavo Poyet admitted Sunderland are boring even him. Sunderland could quite easily have ended up winning a surprisingly open game, featuring an extraordinary miss on poor Jozy Altidore’s part. West Ham were the slightly better, infinitely more fluent, side. Their 1-1 draw with West Ham was their tenth of the season and their fifth in six games. They would have been better off winning two and losing four and although he can be pleased with the defensive improvements which have brought it about, the run of stalemates is surely frustrating. The Black Cats have scored just fourteen times in sixteen league matches and it is only thanks to an 8-0 aberration at Southampton that they have conceded 24 goals. For all their greater solidity, they are only two points above the relegation zone. Sunderland have now gone six matches without a win since they last beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park and Poyet will be desperate to pick up three points against their rivals. The fact that Newcastle are favourites ahead of the game and that the derby will be played at St. James’ Park could work in Sunderland’s favour and help ease the pressure for Poyet’s team to win. The Black Cats hold the bragging rights after doing the double over Pardew’s side last season, winning 3-0 here and 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.
VERDICT: Draw 5/2
Newcastle are favourites at 9/10 with Sunderland priced at 3/1. The Black Cats have enjoyed more success in recent seasons but have struggled to win matches, with goals being Poyet’s biggest concern. Newcastle will be expected to take the game to Sunderland, however, the Black Cats’ solid defence will be difficult to break down. These sides have drawn four of the last seven meetings between them and Sunderland are tipped to earn a commendable draw at 5/2.
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