Club Focus – Newcastle United – Newcastle hope for double derby delight

Alan Pardew’s side will make the short journey to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light looking to repeat the success they enjoyed over their most bitter rivals earlier in the season. No Newcastle fan will need reminding of the scoreline when the teams met at the end of October with a hat-trick from Kevin Nolan and two from Shola Ameobi making an emphatic final score. Revenge will be very much on the mind of the Black Cats as they look to restore some local pride for the home fans.

On paper it should be the highest quality derby for some time with both teams occupying places in the top eight of the Premier League table. Newcastle and Sunderland were both on the receiving end of a giant killing in the FA Cup last weekend but this game means as much to the fans as any cup final. Despite losing in their last encounter at the Stadium of Light in 2008 the Magpies have generally had the upper-hand when making the 10 mile trip south.

Andy Carroll could be in-line to make his return from injury against Sunderland although no final decision has been made on his thigh injury. The club’s top scorer has returned from a short holiday in Dubai to help aid his recovery. Newcastle should be further boosted by the return of Jose Enrique, Jonas Gutierrez and Shola Ameobi who all missed the Stevenage debacle through injury. Dan Gosling may also be a part of the match day squad for the first time after playing 70 minutes in a behind-doors friendly with Hibernian. The former Everton player impressed on his return from injury in a game that finished 3-3.

The good news on the injury front has been tempered slightly by the loss of midfielder Cheik Tiote through suspension. The Ivory Coast powerhouse has arguably been the club’s player of the season and his appetite for a battle would be much needed on Sunday. Alan Smith would appear to be the player most likely to replace him despite being given the run-around against Stevenage. With Smith and Nolan in tandem in the middle of the park there will be a lack of pace to the Newcastle midfield. Manager Alan Pardew is looking forward to his first ever Tyne-Wear derby. In the build up to Sunday’s showdown he said: “It is certainly the biggest game I will have as Newcastle United manager this season. I have seen many Tyne-Wear derbies before and I know what they are – explosive.”

Pardew has been in discussions with owner Mike Ashley over transfer funds as he looks to boost his playing squad. Ashley made a rare visit to Newcastle’s training ground on Wednesday to meet Pardew and Managing Director Derek Llambias. It appears that the Magpies’ interest in Birmingham’s Sebastian Larsson is over after the two parties failed to agree terms. However, Shaun Wright-Phillips could be a possible alternative as he has been given the green light to leave Manchester City.

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