Every week we bring you a key fixture from the Premier League. This weekend we look at the tyne-wear Derby between Newcastle and Sunderland. Can the visitors secure a fourth successive win over their neighbours?
Newcastle v Sunderland
There are few derbies as spicy as the clash between Newcastle and Sunderland. Traditionally, the Magpies have owned this fixture but recently the form guide has been turned on its head; with Sunderland winning the last three meetings.
Recently, one could point to a lack of passion stemming from the lack of home grown talent, as a reason for the poor performances. That opinion will be tested this weekend given Newcastle now boast a host of local lads, all of whom will be determined to turn the form guide on its head. None will be more up for this one than Jack Colback, who made the decision to join Newcastle after his contract with Sunderland expired last season.
1/2/2014: Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland
27/10/2013: Sunderland 2-1 Newcastle
Lee Cattermole (£6.4m, GW 16: 925pts) v Jack Colback (£6.8m, 1150pts)
As recently as last year these two men were manning Sunderland’s midfield to victories over their Geordie rivals. Now, however, Colback is wearing the black and white, and excelling at his new club. He opened eyes with a man of the match display against Chelsea (even if Michael Owen didn’t think so), and has been a huge part of Newcastle’s success this season. Likewise, Cattermole has performed so well this year that their have been murmurs of an England call up.
Both players fill slightly different roles for their sides. For Sunderland, Cattermole is the defensive shield. He leads his side’s midfielders in tackles won (30), interceptions (37), and clearances (36). While Colback can’t match Cattermole in these areas he too has brought a strong defensive presence to the Newcastle midfield. Only Cieck Tiote has won more tackles than the (20) Colback has managed. The Englishman also leads his side with 36 interceptions and 22 clearances.
However, the Newcastle man is more than merely a defensive force. While Cattermole has only touched the ball in the opponents penalty area once this year; Colback brings a box to box presence with him. He has created a total of 21 chances this season, producing a pair of assists. He has also had nearly three times the amount of attempts on goal as Cattermole (18-7). If one of these players is likely to create a goal one would have to suggest it is Colback that is the more likely.
Papiss Cisse (£8.2m, GW16: 480pts) v Costel Pantilimon (£6.6m, GW16: 1450pts)
These two players have quietly been amongst the most effective performers in this season’s Premier League. Despite just five starts Cisse has racked up seven goals this season. His record of a goal every 79.6 minutes ranks him behind only Sergio Aguero (79.0) this season.
Attempting to stop him will be Costel Pantilimon. Having started the season as 2nd choice, Pantilimon seized his chance after replacing Vito Mannone between the sticks. The Sunderland keeper has grabbed the opportunity with both clubs. Three clean sheets from his six starts is an impressive return for any goalkeeper, but add to this the fact that Pantilimon has made the most saves of any keeper in that time (25) and you see a keeper on top of his game.
With clean sheets so important in fantasy football, this could be the match up that decides the outcome of a lot of PlayON battles this weekend.
Sunderland have proven hard to beat, recently, losing just one of their last six. However, their inability to score goals means they have failed to win in that time. They will never have a better chance to find the net given that Newcastle’s top three goalkeepers are injured. Alan Pardew is looking to bring in a keeper on emergency loan. Should he fail players like Conor Wickham and Steven Fletcher become even more attractive striking options.
Regardless of their goalkeeping woes one would expect Newcastle to break their poor streak in this fixture and grab three points.