Sunderland look well-equipped to bring home the bacon in Saturday’s exciting derby. Steve Bruce’s team selection will be anybody’s guess, but I don’t see the need for major changes given last weekend’s excellent showing at Liverpool.
Derby games are not about logic and well-reasoned arguments, in fact football never is. Saturday is about raw emotion, and a neat analysis of the potential line-ups does not seem to hit the spot somehow.
Soccernet’s Norman Hubbard has written in depth on the Black Cats’ Saturday opponents in his superb summary of Newcastle’s current issues entitled “Barton furore masks future imperfect” in which he suggests “A potential ineffectuality in attack probably accounts for some naming Newcastle among the relegation favourites.” I can’t really agree, and I just love the rivalry, and these are some of the best derby games at the top level.
However, on Saturday, all that goes out of the window. The visitors’ horrendous pre-season, comprising of pitch invasions in the Darlington “friendly”, selling the backbone of the team that surprised many last season, plus lack of buying in key areas of the team in the eyes of some fans. Joey Barton has been from journalists’ point of view an excellent sideshow during pre-season friendly games, being transfer-listed and then later forgiven ahead of the 0-0 draw with an anaemic Arsenal team, where he was fully “involved”.
The hosts never looked like winning that game but they were not taken apart, either. They too were solid but uninspired, and the Observer commented that at least for Newcastle that counts as improvement. I respect what Alan Pardew has achieved on limited funds, stabilising the club after the disgrace of Chris Hughton’s dismissal.
My opposite number for “The Scum”, Marc Duffy is a good writer and entertains well. He is good at acknowledging his team’s issues, but like me he is a supporter. I readily admit I am biased when it comes to Sunderland, but having been a supporter for over 40 years, I do now see a talented team, a manager expressing the values of his chairman, Niall Quinn, who is a legend, not least for his goals at St .James’.
So passion and raw emotion is on the menu for Saturday. I dare not predict the result, but it will be exciting, cool heads will be needed; being biased I look for Sunderland to edge it.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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