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MATCH PREVIEW – Sunderland AFC vs Sheffield Wednesday: Black Cats could enter New Year as league leaders with a win

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Credit - Ben Sutherland va flickr: The Black Cats can go top with a win over the Owls...

Sunderland welcome Sheffield Wednesday to the Stadium of Light on Thursday evening knowing that a win would take them to the top of League One heading into 2022 and the remainder of the season. 

Yes, many promotion rivals have games in hand, however the Black Cats are one of the most in-form teams in the league and bounced back quickly from the Carabao Cup defeat to Arsenal by smashing Doncaster Rovers 3-0 on their own patch on Monday afternoon.

Ross Stewart’s penalty, Elliot Embleton’s strike and an own goal from Ben Blythe gave the visitors a comfortable victory and saw them move to within one point of leaders Rotherham United.

Johnson’s side have been hit with a couple of Covid cases but the clash with the Owls is still expected to go ahead. Carl Winchester faces a race against time to be fit having suffered a knock in training which kept him out of the Doncaster game.

Sheffield Wednesday haven’t been in action since the 11th December due to their own complications with covid but were in fine form before their unexpected 19 day break. Darren Moore’s side are difficult to break down and have the best defensive record in the third tier – it’s likely to be a close encounter.

Sunderland have the best home record in League One and have picked up 28 points from a possible 33 at the Stadium of Light. The home side know a win would take them above Rotherham into top spot, heading into the New Year in the best way possible.

The Black Cats are chasing promotion back to the Championship after three seasons in the third tier and will take a huge step towards their target with a win against the Owls.

Lee Johnson’s side are unbeaten in their last eight league matches and have conceded just six goals in their 11 home league games, the fewest in the division.

The Owls were the last side to beat Sunderland in the league after a 3-0 win for Darren Moore’s team at Hillsborough in early November.

However, since that disappointing showing, the Wearsiders have embarked on an unbeaten run which has seen them climb back towards the League One summit.

The game on Thursday evening features two of the most in-form sides in the division who both have visions of promotion back to the Championship come the end of the campaign.

Wednesday have not lost in their last 12 league matches, although seven of those have been draws. In addition, they are on an eight-game unbeaten run away from home and have only lost twice on the road this season.

Moore’s side sit just two points adrift from the play-off spots and have lost just three times all season. It promises to be a tasty top-half encounter on Wearside – what a way to end a dramatic 2021 in League One.

FORM

D W W D L W

W W D L D W 

  • Sunderland have lost just one of their previous 10 Football League home games against Sheffield Wednesday (W6 D3) although that defeat did come in the most recent league encounter at the Stadium of Light (3-1 in April 2018).
  • Sunderland are without a win over the Owls in the previous four games against them, the last victory came in 2007 when the Black Cats ran out 4-2 winners.
  • Neither side have lost a League One match since the start of November when the Owls won 3-0 at the start of the month.

TEAM NEWS

Carl Winchester has been deemed ’50/50′ for Thursday’s clash by manager Lee Johnson, after a training ground knock kept the Northern Ireland man out of Monday’s victory at Doncaster. Aiden O’Brien could be in contention to return to the squad after isolating with Covid-19.

Johnson has confirmed that Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead will be sidelined with a hamstring injury for a minimum of three months.

Ross Stewart will play upfront once again and is looking to score in consecutive matches for the first time since the opening two games of the campaign.

For Wednesday, Massimo Luongo is unavailable as he serves the second of a three-match suspension while the Owls’ extended break from action has allowed Chey Dunkley to return to fitness and he should be back in the matchday squad.

Callum Paterson is in contention to partner top-scorer Lee Gregory in attack for the second match running. Sam Hutchinson and Dennis Adeniran have been given extra time to recover from their respective injuries after the Owls’ 19 day break.

POTENTIAL LINE-UPs

SAFC:                                                                                    SWFC:

 

MANAGERS COMMENTS

Speaking ahead of the SoL showdown, Johnson set his sights on New Year’s success.

“It feels a little like a cup final now that the Fleetwood game is off. For us it marks that big final push before some downtime ahead of the Wycombe game, whereas Sheffield Wednesday have had a long build-up and it’s been their focus for eight to ten days.”

He continued:

“We are really looking forward to it and I know we are expecting a lot of fans – if it wasn’t for the understandable anxiety around COVID-19, we would have been expecting even more. I have a lot of respect for Wednesday because it is a huge club and like us, they will be disappointed to find themselves in League One and be fighting extremely hard to earn the privilege of getting out of it.”

He added:

“We enter 2022 in a good position and we are on the shoulders of the leaders, but we must continue to fight hard as the challengers if we hope to become champions.

“I truly believe that we have another gear in us and that we will get better.”

Pre-match thoughts? Score predictions?

Can Sunderland head into 2022 as league leaders? Will Stewart score in consecutive matches? Can Johnson’s side extend their unbeaten run?

Join in the conversation and have your say…

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Newcastle Ready To Make Offers For Attacking Duo

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Newcastle transfer duo

According to 90min Football, Newcastle are ready to make offers for Lyon playmaker Lucas Paquetá and Marseille forward Bamba Dieng.

Eddie Howe is keen to add attacking reinforcement to his Newcastle squad before the end of the summer transfer window. The Magpies have so far bolstered their defensive options with the arrivals of Matt Target, Sven Botman and goalkeeper Nick Pope.

Newcastle have struggled to sign attacking players so far in the window with clubs and agents demanding higher fees due to the financial wealth behind the new ownership at St James’ Park.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas Paquetá is a name that has been linked with a move to Newcastle since the arrival of former teammate Bruno Guimarães in January.

The 24-year-old is reportedly available for a cut price of £34,000,000 but also has interest from Premier League rivals Arsenal.

Paquetá would complete a trio of Brazilians in midfield at Newcastle, adding to Joelinton and Bruno Guimarães. Paquetá is a different type of player to the formally mentioned pair as he is usually deployed as an advanced midfielder which, should he arrive, would complement The Toon’s midfield nicely.

On Saturday’s opening Premier League fixture against Nottingham Forest, that position was occupied by Joe Willock, who received a 6.95 rating from, WhoScored while, Joelinton and Bruno Guimarães received ratings of 8.69 and 8.18 respectively.

This season is a big season for the former Arsenal man, as he has so far struggled to rekindle his form from the 2020/2021 loan spell with the club since his permanent move.

Jonjo Shelvey faces at least 12 weeks out after undergoing hamstring surgery, meaning Eddie Howe is particularly light of options in the middle of the park.

Elliot Anderson will be staying with the first team after previously expecting to be heading out on loan this campaign. However, his performances in pre-season have impressed The Magpies’ manager.

The academy graduate was an unused sub on Saturday, but I’d suspect he will be utilised when Newcastle are needing a creative spark from midfield late in the game, which was not required on the weekend.

It’s clear that Eddie Howe is hoping to add an advanced midfielder before the window shuts on August 31st, with multiple bids rejected for Leicester City playmaker James Maddison.

Newcastle may go in for a third time for the former Norwich City man, but The Magpies’ hierarchy will be well aware of the FFP restrictions that may see them move for a more affordable target, such as Paquetá.

Marseille forward Bamba Dieng is the other player that Newcastle are set to bid for, who is reportedly available for £12,500,000.

Dieng had a breakthrough season with Marseille last year, scoring 7 goals in 25 games in Ligue 1. The 22-year-old is predominantly a centre-forward but can also play left and right-wing, which would give Newcastle some versatility in the forward positions.

West Ham, Leeds and Celtic are also interested in the Senegalese international, who will be hoping to feature in the World Cup later this year.

Newcastle have been linked with several forwards this summer, including Benjamin Šeško, who has recently joined RB Leipzig.

Eddie Howe will want another forward this summer due to the injury record of Callum Wilson, who, when fit is Newcastle’s first-choice striker.

Wilson got off to a great start to the new Premier League campaign with a clever chip to beat Dean Henderson in the Forest goal and help The Magpies to a 2-0 opening day win.

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Eddie Howe opens up on Anderson’s “big role this season”, transfers wishes and more

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@NUFC via twitter

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has told press that “we’re trying to bring an attacker in.” He also hinted that youngster Elliot Anderson will “have a big part to play this season” and previewed the opening fixture.

Eddie Howe spoke to NUFC TV in the lead up to the start of the new Premier League campaign.

Howe, who was appointed at Newcastle last November, spoke of settling into the area.

“It’s a massive difference having my family close to me. I’ve had a good summer in terms of getting to know the area better, spending more time here. I just feel ready to go and I feel Newcastle Manager now. It took a while to feel settled, not through anyone’s reaction.”

Although, Howe confessed he is yet to pick up any Geordie culture: “I’m so busy with my job and so intense in the role that i have very little time for getting into any local traditions. Hopefully that will change as time evolves.”

The former Bournemouth manager also addressed how the squad are progressing to implement his tactics and philosophy.

He emphasised the room for improvement, saying: “I think the players know what I want now. Knowing what you want and delivering it in the way that you want to is easier said than done. We’re at the highest level and we’re playing against very good teams who are also trying to implement their style on us.

“We’re always working to try and be perfect and we’ve got a long way to go before we get there. I do think we’re along the way now and the key thing is they understand what we want.”

He had praise for Miguel Almiron after an impressive pre-season. “He was a very important player for us last year. At the back end of the season he was terrific without getting the goals and the headlines his performances deserve.”

The winger scored six overall in pre-season, including a double against Benfica.

“Everyone knows Miggy is such a hard worker, such a team player. I’d love him to get some individual reward off the back of that with more goals.”

He also discussed the potential of Eliot Anderson, the young midfielder who impressed in pre-season: “he hasn’t looked out of place among established Premier League. He’s more than held his own. He’ll have a big part to play this season.”

On transfers, Howe was open: “we’re trying to bring an attacker in or someone who can play in forward positions.” After having missed out on a number of attacking targets, he seemed wary that “the transfer marker is so unpredictable.”

“I don’t think [the team] will look drastically different. We’re trying to bring in quality rather than numbers. We’ve got to be smart with what money we do have.”

Turning to Saturday’s fixture, Howe lauded Nottingham Forest. “I’ve been very impressed by Nottingham Forest. Last season the job Steve Cooper did was incredible.”

“After last year waiting so long for a win it would be great if we could make a really good start to this season.”

 

 

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Transfer Latest: Leicester Reject £50,000,000 Bid From Newcastle For Midfield Star

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Leicester's maddison
Image: @premierleague via Twitter

According to The Guardian, Leicester City have rejected Newcastle’s improved offer of £45,000,000 plus £5,000,000 in add-ons for midfielder James Maddison.

The opening bid from The Magpies was in the region of £40,000,000 for the Leicester City playmaker, which was swiftly rejected. It’s understood that The Foxes value Maddison at around the £60,000,000 mark.

Leicester manager Brendon Rodgers said that the opening bid from The Magpies “might just cover three-quarters of his left leg”. Rodgers later stressed that his side will not be “exploited” by other Premier League clubs given their current financial situation.

Newcastle’s hierarchy are currently hesitant in meeting Leicester City’s valuation for Maddison as they don’t want to overpay for players due to FFP restrictions. The new owners have already spent around the £150,000,000 mark in less than 12 months.

The Foxes are set to lose goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. He is close to joining French side Nice, with the deal expected to be completed in the coming days. Leicester are reportedly interested in signing Newcastle keeper Martin Dúbravka as Schmeichel’s replacement, meaning Dúbravka could potentially be used as a makeweight in the Maddison deal.

The former Norwich City man is third for chances created in the Premier League since August 2018 with 278, just behind the division’s top creators Kevin De Bryune and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Lucas Paquetá

It is clear that Eddie Howe is looking to add an attack-minded midfielder to his side with links to the likes of Lucas Paquetá since the start of the window.

Lyon midfielder Lucas Paquetá has been linked with a move to the North East since the arrival of Bruno Guimarães in January. Paquetá is a close friend to Guimarães as they both played together in midfield at Lyon. Guimarães has recently released a message on Instagram to his former teammate:

Leicester reject 50m for maddison

Image: @brunoguimaraes via Instagram

The message reads, “I miss you brother!!! I miss you every day I love you so much my friend @lucaspaqueta ❤️”

Lyon’s head of recruitment, Bruno Cheyrou, has not ruled out a sale for the Brazilian midfielder who is reportedly available for a fee in the region of £34,000,000 after previously being valued at almost double the price mentioned.

If the reports from the French media outlet Media Foot regarding the asking price are correct, Paquetá could provide The Toon with a cheaper alternative to Maddison which could be an appealing solution for the Newcastle hierarchy.

However, it’s believed that Arsenal are currently leading the race for the 24-year-old’s signature, but Paquetá could prefer a move to St James’ Park to be reunited with close friend Bruno Guimarães.

Maxwel Cornet

Burnley winger Maxwel Cornet is another name that has been recently linked with a move to the North East but face competition from Premier League rivals Everton, West Ham and new boys Nottingham Forest.

It has been revealed that Cornet has a £17,500,000 release clause in his current contract at The Clarets and is open to a move following their relegation to the Championship last season.

The 25-year-old is predominantly seen as a left-winger but can also play at left-back. Adding more quality to the forward positions is one of Eddie Howe’s priorities for the remainder of the window, as he is yet to sign a forward player.

Cornet was left out of Vincent Kompany’s squad for Burnley’s Championship opening fixture at Huddersfield Town on Friday night.

The Ivory Coast international could provide a more suitable option financially due to the £40,000,000 asking price for Leeds winger Jack Harrison, who has been previously linked with a move to The Toon.

Eddie Howe’s side have already seen a bid of £33,500,000 rejected by Leeds and are unwilling to pay over their valuation for the former Manchester City man.

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Who would you prefer Maddison or Paquetá?

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