Newcastle Club Focus – Local rivals set for derby day

Newcastle will be looking to get over their disappointment of dropping two points against Wolves with a win in the Tyne-Wear derby. The Magpies last two games have not exactly gone to plan but all will be quickly forgotten if they are victorious over Sunderland on Sunday. The two sides are enjoying a successful season, with both two teams on course for a top-half finish. Currently 10 Premier League points separate the bitter rivals, with the Black Cats suffering a heavy defeat in their last game against West Brom.

Since returning to the top flight after a one-year absence, Newcastle have enjoyed the Midas touch over Sunderland. In their last three meetings the black and whites have won two and drawn one and few fans on either side will need reminding of what happened the last time they met on Tyneside. When they faced each other earlier in the season, Newcastle won 1-0 at the Stadium of Light with Ryan Taylor the unlikely hero. Even months later fans are still singing about his winning free-kick back in August and nothing will make the Newcastle fans happier than completing the double over their bitter rivals.

However, this may not be as straightforward as the Magpies would have thought before the sacking of Steve Bruce back in November. Since the appointment of Martin O’Neill midway through the season the fortunes of Sunderland have been transformed dramatically. They have lost only four league games under his leadership and have made the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Newcastle know they will be facing a very different proposition from the previous derby fixtures when at times it appeared the Wearside team could not handle the heat of a derby atmosphere.

The biggest injury concern going into the weekend for Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is the fitness of forward Papiss Cisse. The January signing was forced to withdraw from Senegal’s friendly international due to a groin injury he picked up against Wolves. Cisse has not trained this week but may still feature against Sunderland. Coach John Carver told The Journal : “He should be OK. He had a problem with his groin, he hasn’t trained yet. He didn’t train on Wednesday and I think the fortunate thing is that we have the extra day with the game being on Sunday. But fingers crossed he should be OK.”

Cisse has so far enjoyed a dream start to his new career with two goals in only three league appearances. He has already shown a real poachers instinct similar to that of his fellow countryman Demba Ba. While the partnership is still a work in progress, Newcastle can boast two of the most prolific strikers in Europe at the moment. Cisse can increase his growing reputation among the fans with a goal on Sunday lunchtime.

While Cisse and Ba can do no wrong at present, another striker in the squad is not having such a good time. Youngster Nile Ranger has been fined £6,000 by the FA for homophobic comments posted on his Twitter account. It is the latest in a long line of incidents involving the talented but troubled 20-year old. It remains to be seen how long the club will continue to support Ranger and his considerable baggage.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Sunderland v Newcastle

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