Sunderland have an excellent recent record in the Tyne-Wear Derby and the form card says they should get a positive result this time. The Black Cats should be in a better league situation though, with too many draws from winning positions this season. Benitez was unfortunate that his first match at the helm was against the league leaders but it still took a Shinji Okazaki wondergoal to beat the Magpies. There were a few signs of slight improvement and with nine games left there is still a chance to at least stay in contention. A win for Newcastle could just be the catalyst needed at St. James’ Park that will see them escape relegation.
Sam Allardyce bemoaned his side’s defensive lapse in added time against Southampton, but it was Yedlin and O’Shea who switched off. Koné was instrumental in Sunderland’s goal, and although the result was disappointing in the end, the young central defender did his part for the Black Cats. Koné won’t even need to be at his best against a Newcastle attack woefully out of form and shorn of confidence. It is other members of the back four who need to step up their performances in this relegation six-pointer.
Sissoko’s attitude has been symbolic of a transfer policy that has been lucrative for Mike Ashley but left the team in shambles. The Frenchman has been angling for a move to a Champions League club almost since he joined, but his play has been poor and inconsistent. Players who are sold the line about Newcastle being a stepping stone to the elite clubs are not putting the effort in that the fans deserve, believing themselves above their current situation. The board who signed players without a relegation clause in their contracts ought to look a lot more worried.
Evergreen Defoe has 11 league goals to his name and acted as super-sub against Southampton. A must for FLIP teams, he has given Sunderland fans something to cheer about in a season strewn with painful controversy. Newcastle have leaked goals for months and Defoe is a good bet to score even if Sunderland fail to win.
Arguably the best signing Newcastle have made for a while, Perez looks young and dangerous. He is still mostly potential however and seems to play best when partnered up front. It is a shame the Magpies have been so poor because for another team Perez might have shone this season. If Newcastle get among the goals in this ultimate derby, Perez is a good shout to bag one for your FLIP team.