Focus Fixture: Isak on the scoresheet in feisty Tyne-Wear Derby

By Scott Thornton

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6 January 2024

The FA Cup draw has served up a treat. Sunderland host Newcastle in one of Saturday’s earlier kick-offs in the first Tyne-Wear Derby since 2016. The footballing landscape in the North-East has changed dramatically since the sides last squared off but the strength of feeling amongst the supporters remains.

The Form

Sunderland have done reasonably well at the Stadium of Light this season, but they will need the full backing of the home support if they are the topple their wealthy rivals.  They have won eight of their 14 home matches across all competitions and are averaging 1.64 goals per game over that period.

The Black Cats campaign has been very up and down, but they are currently 6th in the league and chasing a return to the Premier League. The last time Sunderland were in the topflight, Newcastle were also battling against relegation so the Black Cats have managed to win six of their last seven matches against their great rivals.

Newcastle are going through a difficult period. They have been on an upward trajectory since Eddie Howe was appointed by the Saudi PIF but they have stagnated of late. Newcastle surprised many by qualifying for the Champions League last season, but expectations are loftier having overachieved in the last campaign.

The Magpies’ European adventure was cut short. They were drawn in the group of death and were dumped out of Europe’s elite competition and also missed out on a place in the Europa League. Howe could come under fire if he is unable to turn things around in the coming months, but he still has a lot of credit in the bank from last season. This competition is now the club’s only hope of ending their lengthy trophy drought so we shouldn’t expect any complacency when they rock up to the Stadium of Light.

The Geordies have won just once in their last eight matches in all competitions. That solitary win was at home to Fulham. During that rotten run, they’ve been beaten by the likes of Luton, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle. Perhaps what’s more concerning, is Newcastle’s poor away form. They have picked up just two wins on the road in their 15 matches across all competitions.

The Runners and the Riders

Niall Higgins, Jay Matete, Dennis Cirkin and Cory Evans are unavailable for the home side but whatever team Sunderland field will give it 110% as they look to topple their rivals.

Newcastle has suffered a heap of injuries in recent months, and it has coincided with their downturn in form. Some key players are available once again but Eddie Howe still has to contend with a whole host of notable absentees. Nick Pope is injured and won’t feature in the net. Callum Wilson is also a huge miss for the visitors in attack. Keiran Trippier is also a doubt while Jacob Murphy will certainly miss the clash.

What They Said

Michael Beale said his squad are hungry ahead of this one and insisted that many of his players harbour ambitions of playing at this level every week. Beale said “They are young players and there is a lot of ambition in our dressing room, from players who want to go on and play in the Premier League and Champions League.”

Eddie Howe acknowledged his club’s poor performances in the FA Cup since he took charge and insisted this is the game that Newcastle turn it around. He said “I'm well aware of my record here... the two games we've had have been disappointing. I won't shy away from that and we'll try to make up for it in this game. It's our opportunity to progress in a competition we want to do well in.”

Bet Builder Tip

Sunderland are undoubtedly the underdogs here, but they have the attacking nous to hurt a Newcastle side that has wilted away from St. James’s Park. Eddie Howe’s side are conceding an average of 1.7 goals per away game this season and they haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last eight. For this reason, I’m backing both teams to score in this match as part of our bet builder.

The Black Cats are averaging 1.64 goals per home game this season. They may not have played Newcastle for a while, but they won’t want to ruin their record against their biggest rivals. They are unbeaten in the last nine head-to-heads and have scored in all of those.

We are also going to back Alexander Isak to score as part of our builder. The Swedish international has played as a striker and out wide since joining Newcastle but he will almost certainly start up from here with Callum Wilson ruled out. He is averaging 1.5 shots on target per 90 minutes played in the Premier League this season and he should have some success on Saturday. 

Isak has scored in his last two matches for Newcastle and they will rely on his scoring touch here as they attempt to silence the home crowd.

Recommend Bet: Both Teams To Score & Isak To Score at 3.05

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