Newcastle v Sunderland: Kevin Phillips backs former side to edge Tyne-Wear derby on Super Sunday

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01:  Fabio Borini (C) of Sunderland celebrates with teammates Phil Bardsley (L) and Marcos Alonso (R) after scoring
Image: Sunderland have won 3-0 at Newcastle in the past two seasons

Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips blogs on the Super Sunday Tyne-Wear derby at Newcastle this weekend - and tips his old side to edge a tight contest...

It’s derby day in the North East on Sunday – and that means there is a chance for a Newcastle or Sunderland player to make themselves a hero.

These are fantastic games to be involved in and walking out at St James’ Park in a Sunderland shirt is quite an experience!

These are fantastic games to be involved in and walking out at St James’ Park in a Sunderland shirt is quite an experience!
Kevin Phillips

I remember my first derby at Newcastle and I couldn’t believe how noisy it was before kick-off. There was so much whistling. The noise was deafening and it carried on throughout the 90 minutes. I was lucky enough to score the winner that day and it was a special feeling.

Sunderland will be hoping one of their players can do the same this weekend because scoring goals has been a real problem for them this season.

If you take out the eight goals they conceded at Southampton, they’ve got the fourth-best defence in the division, in terms of the number of times they’ve been beaten. However, they’ve ended up drawing 10 of their 16 Premier League matches because they haven’t found the net often enough themselves.

Newcastle have shipped eight goals in their last two games, though, and with question marks about the goalkeeping situation there, Sunday could be a great opportunity for Sunderland to take advantage.  

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At one point it looked like 17-year-old Freddie Woodman may have to go in goal, with Tim Krul and Rob Elliot out and Jak Alnwick picking up a shoulder problem in midweek. I really would have feared for Woodman making his debut in such a huge fixture.

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However, Alnwick – who is reportedly fit to play – has only made three first-team appearances for Newcastle and, with doubts about his fitness, Sunderland need to test him early on.

They need to put him under pressure, get as many crosses into the box as they can and try to force a mistake. It will be his first Tyne-Wear derby and he will never have experienced anything like it before.

The situation isn’t ideal for Newcastle’s defence. They’ve let in four against Tottenham and Arsenal in the past week and they’d like an experienced person behind them, talking to them and helping them. But they’ll have to deal with what they’ve got on the day.

Sunderland go into the game without a win since the start of November but form can go out of the window on occasions like this. It’s about who performs on the day, who doesn’t freeze, who doesn’t bottle it. Sunderland have come out on top in the last three derbies, so who knows which way it will fall this weekend.

It’ll be difficult for Sunderland but given their recent history in these games, I reckon they might surprise a few people and nick a very tight match. 

Watch Newcastle v Sunderland live on Sky Sports 1 HD on Sunday from 12.30pm.

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