As if this game needs much/any introduction! So we face our neighbours to the north in possibly the biggest game of the season, and with a thirst for revenge. Let’s hope we play better than we did in our last two encounters with ‘Magpies’...
SAFC Team News
Things look a little rosier than last week at SAFC. Whilst it doesn’t look like there’ll be any fresh blood in the squad to face Newcastle, returns from injury and suspension will almost be like new signings.
Brucey Bruce has hinted at possible returns for Nedum Onouha, Danny Welbeck and Lee Cattermole, who would all be huge, however, temper your expectations as man-in-the-know George Caulkin tweeted that Cattermole is still a ‘major doubt’. Of course to aid our struggling midfield we have Bolo Zenden back from suspension, and his experience and calming influence could be crucial on Sunday.
With all this in mind, let’s move on to the starting team. Across the back five, Craig Gordon (subject of speculation this week about a move to MUFC) will continue in goals, and look to help SAFC record their 12th clean sheet of the season. In front of him expect to see stand-in captain Titus Bramble partner Anton Ferdinand, with Phil Bardsley at right-back and former derby hero, Kieran Richardson, on the left. Even if Nedum Onouha is fit, I can’t really see who he’d come in ahead of. Possibly Richardson, but that would be too defensive a swap.
The midfield much depends on the fitness of Danny Welbeck. Bruce is pretty liberal with reporting injuries, so I think one of Danny, Catts or Ned will be able to play, and the horse I’m backing is Welbeck. With Welbeck on the left of midfield, floating in field and working his arse off as usual, I think we’ll see Elmohamady on the right, Henderson partnering Zenden in the middle, and Steed Malbranque the man to miss out. I can’t really find fault with that. If Welbeck isn’t good to go, expect Steed to slot in like for like.
Up front, we are once again, desperately short of options if we’re without Welbeck. So expect Asamoah Gyan & Darren Bent to start, and we really need them to start finding some sort of partnership. Personally, I think one of them plus Welbeck is the best combination, but Gyan & Bent are both intelligent players, with bags of skill, who should be able to work things out eventually. Starting Sunday would be nice though lads!
Bruce’s Probable Team:
Gordon; Onouha, Ferdinand, Bramble, Bardsley; Malbranque, Henderson, Zenden, Welbeck; Bent, Gyan
Gordon; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Bramble, Richardson; Elmohamady, Henderson, Zenden, Welbeck; Bent, Gyan
From the Newcastle side
Two big misses potentially for NUFC, starting with holding midfielder/destroyer Cheik Tiote. For me he was up there for Man Of The Match last time we played, and just couldn’t find a way past him. I’m happy he’s out to be fair, as I think we stand a much better chance if facing the likes of Alan Smith.
Another huge loss is going to be (fingers crossed he doesn’t make it) Andy Carroll. He might look like a greasy gypsy, and his off field antics may leave something to be desired, there’s no denying he’s a handful on the pitch, and has been up there as one of the best young players in the Premiership this season.
Should he not be able to go, we’re looking at Shola Ameobi, who loves to have the game of his life and get his only goals of the season against us it seems, or Leon Best partnering Lovenkrands in attack. I really hope Pardew is clueless as to Ameobi’s scoring record against us, and starts Best. One hattrick against West Ham does not maketh the man.
Elsewhere, Nolan & Barton will be needed to be guarded against, as they’re both in good form, and ripped us a new one at the "Sports Direct @ St James’ Park Stadium" last time out.
Derby games are so tough to call, and can make you look like a right dick if you go in overconfident, as I did last time we met.
However things have changed since then, and it genuinely is a close game to call, even if we were not playing for local bragging rights. They’re 8th, we’re 6th, so we’re both doing decent, and we both have injury problems.
Personally, I think the capacity crowd will be a 12th man for SAFC, and help us over the line. Just. I don’t expect it to be a classic. I’m going for 1-0 to SAFC. Who to score? Danny Welbeck. There’s something about loanees in the derby. Carteron, Hoyte, Patrick Mboma’s ridiculous tackle, and for the other side there was Helder. I think Welbeck writes his name into SAFC folklore this weekend.
Enjoy the game everyone. Get there early, make a shitload of noise, and back the lads from start to finish. As Mickey Gray said to me earlier this week, the fans can make all the difference in these games. Take heed everyone, have a great day out, and I hope we’ve all got sore heads at work on Monday from over-celebration on Sunday.
Ha’way The Lads, FTM.
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