Derby day: Three key battles at Newcastle vs Sunderland

Steven Fletcher heads Sunderland ahead in last year's Wear-Tyne derby
Steven Fletcher heads Sunderland ahead in last year's Wear-Tyne derby

THE first meeting of the Tyne-Wear derby will see Newcastle host the Black Cats this Sunday, 21 and tensions are already high.

It’s not ideal going into a derby game when you’re seven points adrift from Newcastle and haven’t won a game since early November, but with these meetings the atmosphere itself can set the pace of the game.

Newcastle haven’t beaten Sunderland since 2011 and Alan Pardew will be no doubt drilling that fact into his players in preparation for Sunday.

Sunderland will want to maintain the bragging rights and even though there has been a drought in terms of goals this season, the amount of draws the Black Cats have had shows that defensively, there are some positives within the team.

Looking ahead to this weekend both teams will already know the scale of the event and there will be key areas of the game where the toughest battles will be taking place.

Cattermole v Colback

Jack Colback will be nervous coming into this weekends game, luckily for him it is at home and the crowd will be on his side but he will have a lot to prove and there will a lot of pressure. He scored the third goal for Sunderland the last time the teams met as every fan knows and Newcastle fans will be hoping he provides the favour for them. He has begun to settle into his role at the rival club after a shaky start to the season but Lee Cattermole will make sure he stifles Colback’s game.

Cattermole has played four derby games and knows the occassion well, on his good days he can hold the centre of the pitch brilliantly and can play long passes that could open up Newcastle to Fletcher and Gomez. However, It is a well known fact that he can lose his head and was dissmissed after the game at Newcastle in March, 2012 when Ameobi snatched a 90th minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw. He will be aware of this going into Sunday’s game and hopefully he will manage to have a controlled game keeping Colback at bay.

O’Shea v 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. He 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.

If O’Shea can man-mark Cisse close enough and command the back line like he has been doing in many games this season it might not allow Cisse enough room to move and keep him quiet and out of the game.

Fletcher v Coloccini

Fletcher scored in the 2-1 home victory last season but missed the two 3-0 wins through injury. He will be very eager to play his part in the game and make himself known to the Newcastle defence. A goal from Fletcher in this game will boost his confidence for the rest of the season undoubtedly and he knows that. Playing alongside Connor Whickam and Jordi Gomez could be a real threat to Newcastle but Coloccini will be aware of this threat.

He has been a consistent player for Newcastle this season and will be wanting to show his faithfulness to the side this weekend. He hasn’t played in a derby game since the 1-1 draw in 2012 so he will be prepared to feed off the home crowd atmosphere.

Fletcher will be hoping that Newcastle’s back line will be mentally and physically tired from their last two losses where they have let in four goals each at Tottenham and Arsenal. This could be a deciding factor for the Sunderland striker.