Newcastle United vs Sunderland: Five Key Battles

This Sunday sees Newcastle United and Sunderland face off in a Tyne-Wear Derby with a whiff of desperation about it, as both sides are still scrambling to secure their place in the Premier League.

Here is a run-down of the key battles...

Papiss Cisse vs John O'Shea

Cisse's goal against Benfica on Thursday night marked the fifth game in a row he had scored in at St James' Park, and the Senegalese striker has developed a happy knack of netting vital late goals for his side. Cisse will be the main threat to Sunderland's defence on Sunday, and his excellent movement will need to be tracked diligently by O'Shea to stop him getting too many sights of goal.

Massadio Haidara vs Adam Johnson

It is heartening to see Haidara back on the pitch so soon after the incident with Calum McManaman, and with Davide Santon injured himself, Newcastle are no doubt delighted to have Haidara available this weekend. Adam Johnson has been a disappointment at Sunderland this season, but he can still turn a game in a moment cutting in from his flank, and Haidara will need to be careful not to allow Johnson too much space.

Hatem Ben Arfa vs Danny Rose

Ben Arfa might not be able to start the game on Sunday, but if he is available Alan Pardew will likely use him at some stage, and there is no doubt that the Frenchman has the quality to have a huge impact on the game even if only given twenty minutes on the pitch. Rose has been one of few bright spots at Sunderland this year, with his improved defensive attributes nicely complemented by his ability to get forward from left back. Ben Arfa is a superb attacking player, but when he's on the pitch, he will also need to ensure Rose is not allowed to roam forward unattended.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa vs Connor Wickham

Paolo Di Canio turned to the 20 year old Wickham to lead the line at Chelsea, and he did a reasonable pressuring the Chelsea back line and linking with his midfield. He could be in for a similarly tricky time on Sunday taking on Newcastle's revamped back four, and Yanga-Mbiwa and Steven Taylor will hope to nullify Sunderland by bullying Wickham out of the game. The youngster will need to be at his best for Sunderland to carry a consistent threat at St James' Park.

Moussa Sissoko vs Alfred N'Diaye

Although Moussa Sissoko has not been able to maintain his blistering start to life in the North East, he has still become a key player in Alan Pardew's team, and N'Diaye will spend plenty of time attempting to limit his influence on the home side's attacking play. Newcastle have been over reliant on Papiss Cisse for goals of late, and if N'Diaye can stop Sissoko from helping out in this regard, then Sunderland's defence will have an easier job holding off the Magpies' front line.

image: © machernucha

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