Sunderland v Newcastle: The jury’s verdict

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TWO games into the season and we’re already at the game all fans know is the most important of our season!

It’s not the be all and end all … it just nearly is. We’re better equipped this season than ever to play the Mags and it should work in our favour that it’s early in the season.

On paper, it’s three points at home, but that’ll mean very little come game time and it’ll be tight as it normally is. It’s important we make a good, fast start because we don’t want to go chasing the game.

We need our players to stand up and play it as the big game we know it is, but not get overawed by the occasion. We did this twice last season and it can’t keep happening.

They’ve lost several key players who knew what this game is all about and replaced them with players who (hopefully) will not understand what this means to us. With the experienced Premiership players we’ve recruited, they should at least know our passion up here for football, if not the derby. And if they don’t know about our passion for the derby they will by noon tomorrow. Ha’way the Lads.

Prediction: Sunderland 2 Newcastle 0

DERBY day – the fixture most fans look for when they are announced. After last year’s results, the fans will be desperate for a win and a performance from the lads. Both teams will go into the game with confidence after good results on the opening day of the season.

Despite the great second-half performance last week, there were some worrying moments in the first half and, personally, I’d make a few changes for the derby. If fit, O’Shea must come into the team to replace Richardson, also I’d like to see Gardner brought into the team in place of Elmo – despite his cross for the goal he doesn’t contribute enough. Larsson could then move to the right, with Colback moving wide, which will help double up on Barton.

The main thing Bruce needs to get through to the players is to not turn the game into a battle. We tried that at home last year and the Newcastle players just kept going down and winning free-kicks, which stopped the game flowing and played into their hands.

We have the better team on paper and if we get the ball down and play football, like we did in the second half at Liverpool, I can’t see past a Sunderland win. Ha’way the Lads.

Prediction: Sunderland 2 Newcastle 0

CHRISTMAS came early with Newcastle the first home game of the season. We’ve all been counting down to this day.

Emotions are still raw – last season’s derby was poor and I personally demand a performance with all the passion required for the derby.

We have new lads desperate to make a name for themselves and stake a claim to a regular spot in the first team. I want to see Bruce go all-out attack. Let’s be straight, Newcastle are now a team of nobodies – their best players have jumped ship and the squad is full of French reserves. If we lose points to teams like that, especially at home, I fear for our season.

We have potential for goals from everywhere – defence with Richardson and Bardo, midfield with Gardner, Larsson and Sessegnon and, of course, Gyan, Dong-won and Wickham up front.

We need a good result to push on and challenge for Europe and a win against relegation-threatened teams should be bread and butter. Let’s hope Bruce drills into the lads how big this game is. We should walk this game, but, as we know, it’s never that easy. I’m optimistic, however, and confident the new lads will shine and I will be cocky and say we will win big.

Prediction: Sunderland 4 Newcastle 0

OCTOBER 31, 2010 – Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1. We all remember that day and where we were watching.

Tomorrow, it’s time for the lads to finally put that defeat right. We’ve a lot of new faces now, a few of whom played quite well at Liverpool – Dong inparticular looked lively and Larsson’s goal was superb. It’s time to avenge that defeat.

It was a fantastic point at Anfield and with John O’Shea looking likely to start, we’ve a strong back five. Personally, I’d give Westwood a start (I know it would be his debut) but he played pretty well for Ireland the other week. I think this will be my seventh home derby and you never feel any less nervous and you can only hope the new signings know what a victory would mean to the fans.

Wes Brown looked like he’d played for Manchester United for the past 10 years against Liverpool and despite Ameobi’s more than decent scoring record against us, I’m confident we can keep him quiet – unless Taylor dives in the box again – but let’s not mention that.

We need to win this match on merit and I hope Bruce has been hammering that point home to the players during the week. Not a 1-1 draw, with Gyan scoring in the last minute.

Mike Ashley has sold off their better players – I’m only worried about Joey Barton, with Nolan and Carroll leaving. Sessegnon should tear their defence apart and if the rest of the midfield battle and get stuck in, it could be a memorable day for Sunderland fans.

Prediction: Sunderland 3 Newcastle 0

AFTER a spirited point at Anfield, it doesn’t get any easier for Bruce’s boys, with the first Wear-Tyne derby also being the opening home fixture of the campaign.

We will surely be looking to make up for last season’s humiliation at their place, as this is the weakest Magpie team we have faced for a long, long time.

We also have the best team we have had for a long, long time. If only the game was played on paper!

It goes without saying that the main threat for them is Shola “I only ever score against Sunderland” Ameobi. However, if he doesn’t score for them I’m not sure who will, as they looked very poor going forward against Arsenal last Saturday and our defence (in particular Brown) looked magnificent last Saturday after the first 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, Newcastle’s defence also looked up to scratch, so it will be a case of us breaking them down as we’re the home team.

I would play the same 11 that started at Anfield because of the way we played and the result we got. Because of the strength of both defences (and the fact it’s a derby), I see this game being a tight one with only one goal in it.

Prediction: Sunderland 1 Newcastle 0

THE big one, the one we want to win more than any other.

Last season’s performances in both derby games were disappointing, but this is a new season and there is little or no point in looking back to them as a guide to this season’s games as both squads have changed quite a bit.

I feel we’ve strengthened and they’re possibly weaker – they will certainly miss the nuisance value of Nolan in these games.

We should be looking to attack them, especially down our right as Ryan Taylor is likely to play left-back and Elmohamady’s pace and height could cause him problems.

Central midfield will be an interesting battle with Cattermole and Tiote going head to head. If Cattermole can continue his form from the Liverpool game, I’m confident he’ll get the upper hand in that contest.

Their biggest threat will come from Joey Barton, who, despite his failings, is a very good player and can create from set-pieces and in open play.

We have more than enough in our squad to win this game – our attacking players are capable of causing them problems.

Come on lads, let’s do it and send them back with their arrogance tucked between their legs.

Prediction: Sunderland 3 Newcastle 1