Haway Day Derby Joy For Magpies?
"I would rather collect stamps than stick on that shirt!"
This was Steven Taylor's passionate response when asked if he would ever consider playing for Sunderland, but the Newcastle-born defender will hope that it is not his team getting licked come late Sunday afternoon.
To add further fuel to the flames ahead of the season's first Wear-Tyne derby, the former England u21 star also sensationally claimed that no Sunderland player possessed the quality to make it into the Newcastle starting eleven. When pressed by reporters ahead of the clash, he was unrelenting in his opinion of the Toon's fiercest rivals.
"Not one player (would make the Newcastle XI). That is the quality we possess."
When the name of Adam Johnson was mentioned, an England u21 colleague of Taylor's, his declaration remained. "No! He can join our reserves if he wants to!"
Not that this rivalry needed anything to build the atmosphere. The hostility and passion reverberates around the stadium and crashes like huge tidal waves onto the pitch, where most recently, the players have been unable to contain their emotions. There have been four red-cards in the last four derby matches (all for Sunderland) and 25 yellows meaning it could be a busy afternoon for referee Martin Atkinson at the Stadium of Light.
The hosts should have winger James McClean back in contention while full-back Phil Bardsley could also make the squad after recovering from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since pre-season. Definitely out for Sunderland though is defender and ex-Newcastle player Titus Bramble and skipper Lee Cattermole will serve the last of his three-match ban.
The visitors have received a treble injury boost this week with Tim Krul, Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini all returning to training. Another bonus is the arrival of Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote on Tyneside after international duty, all unscathed, much to the delight of manager Alan Pardew.
Wear-Tyne Opta Facts
Sunderland v Newcastle United
• Sunderland have earned four red cards in the last four Premier League meetings with Newcastle and there have been 25 yellows shared between the teams in those matches.
• There has been a 90th minute goal scored in three of the last four league meetings between these north east rivals.
• Shola Ameobi has scored seven Premier League goals against Sunderland, by far his favourite opponent.
• Ameobi has netted those seven goals in his last seven appearances against the Black Cats, while Sunderland have only netted eight among the whole team in those games.
• Newcastle have conceded the joint-most headed goals in the Premier League this season (4).
• Sunderland have fired in fewer shots on target than any other team in the top flight this season (11).
• Of Sunderland's 11 shots on target, only one has been a header and none has been an attempt with a right-footed shot.
• Newcastle have scored a divisional-high 88% of their goals in the second half of league games this season.
• Since the start of 2010-11, Cheik Tiote has been booked 27 times in 54 Premier League appearances. He has the worst disciplinary record in that period ahead of 2nd-placed Lee Cattermole with 18 yellows and three red cards.
• In the 13 games these two sides have played between them in the Premier League this season, just three players have been on the scoresheet, Fletcher 5, Ba 6 and Ben Arfa 2.
Sunderland 13/8 Draw 2/1 Newcastle 19/10
Steven Fletcher to score & Sunderland to win 3/1
Papiss Cisse to score & Newcastle to win 5/1
Steven Fletcher 9/2, Demba Ba 5/1, Louis Saha 13/2, Papiss Cisse 13/2, Stephane Sessegnon 7/1
Sunderland -1 4/1 Newcastle-1 5/1
Red Card In The Match?
Yes 2/1 No 4/11