Newcastle United host Sunderland in arguably the standout Premier League fixture this weekend.
The two teams are currently separated by just one point, and heading into the latter stages of the campaign it’is looking increasingly likely that one - or perhaps both - will go down this season.
Rafa Benitez’s recent appointment at Newcastle adds an extra edge to the fixture, and it is one that really could go either way as both teams will seek all three points and a giant step towards safety.
A potential key battle in the fixture will involve the midfield, where Sunderland’s Yann M’Vila will undoubtedly feature and could face off against former Black Cat Jack Colback who now represents Newcastle.
|Tackles per Game||Effective Clearances per Game||Interceptions per Game||Def Duels Won per Game||Ball Recoveries per Game||Touches per Game||Accurate Passes per Game||Appearances|
As shown by the table provided by Opta, Yann M’Vila heads into the fixture having had the better season thus far as he outshines his upcoming opponent in six of seven key categories.
The former Rennes man averages more effective clearances, interceptions, defensive duels won, ball recoveries, touches of the ball and accurate passes per Premier League fixture.
Colback has featured 22 times in the Premier League for Newcastle this season, with 20 of those coming in midfield. However, against Leicester City last Monday he was moved to left-back.
It will be interesting to see whether Benitez moves him back to midfield against Sunderland, or whether he will stick with Jonjo Shelvey and Vurnon Anita who both played in the defeat to the Foxes.
The North East derby has always been a must-see encounter and arguably none in recent history have been as important as this weekend’s clash at St. James’ Park, all adding to the nerves and excitement.