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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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Saudi Arabia wants its investors to own Manchester United

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North East Updates - Breaking News

Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.

 

Sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now funding a breakaway golf series.

 

It follows the Manchester United board announcing that they are open to a sale of the club.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisalstated he would be keen on Ronaldo signing for a Saudi Pro League after the World Cup, with the 37-year-old a free agent following a controversial interview and exit to Manchester United earlier this week..

 

“Who wouldn’t want him to play in their league?” “He’s a role model to a lot of young players – him and Messi.”

 

Sky news are reporting – It is the availability of United – after the Glazers announced plans for a potential sale – and Ronaldo that is interesting Prince Abdulaziz.

 

What are your thoughts on this – join the conversation on our Facebook page.

 

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Which Newcastle Players Are Going To The World Cup?

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Newcastle

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets underway next week and here are all the Newcastle players involved in the tournament

Callum Wilson (England)

Newcastle striker Callum Wilson is a player that has consistently shown the quality to earn a spot in an England squad at a major tournament but has sadly had his chances diminished by injuries in the past.

However, Wilson is currently injury free and is on the plane to Qatar! The Coventry City academy graduate averages a goal every 130 minutes in the Premier League this season, which is the second-best return of all English players behind Harry Kane.

The 30-year-old may have to bide his time for an opportunity due to England captain Harry Kane being the first-choice striker. That said, Wilson gives Gareth Southgate a great alternative should England find themselves chasing a game.

Kieran Trippier (England)

Gareth Southgate has always been very fond of Kieran Trippier’s abilities and what he brings to a team. For example, in Euro 2020 Southgate opted to play Trippier at left-back ahead of a more natural option in Ben Chilwell due to the 32-year-old’s experience and leadership qualities.

Trippier brings bags of experience at major tournaments after reaching the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020.

With injuries at right-back to the likes of Reece James and uncertainty around the fitness of Kyle Walker, Trippier could start at right wing-back in England’s World Cup opener against Iran.

Nick Pope (England)

The last player to complete The Magpies’ England trio is Nick Pope. Toon’s No.1 has been outstanding since arriving from Burnley in the Summer and has earnt his place in England’s World Cup squad.

Pope has the joint most clean sheets in the Premier League this season (6) alongside Manchester City goalkeeper, Ederson and fellow England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

It remains to be seen if Gareth Southgate picks Pope to be his first-choice goalkeeper in Qatar ahead of Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale. Pope started both of England’s last games in the Nations League back in September.

Bruno Guimarães (Brazil)

Moving to South America and the favourites to win the competition, Brazil. Bruno Guimarães has been one of Newcastle’s stand-out players this season and has deservedly earned himself a spot in Brazil’s very competitive World Cup Squad.

Guimarães has statistically been the best midfielder in the Premier League so far this season and will be hoping his performances have done enough to earn him a start against Serbia in Brazil’s opening fixture.

That said, Brazil manager Adenor Leonardo Bacchi has predominantly played with a midfield two of Manchester United duo, Casemiro and Fred at the base of the Brazilian midfield.

Fabian Schär (Switzerland)

The Magpies’ centre-back has been in great form alongside Sven Botman at the heart of Newcastle’s defence this season and will be hoping to continue his form in Qatar.

Schär has some tough competition in his position in the form of Manchester City centre-back Manuel Akanji and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Nico Elvedi.

Switzerland find themselves in the same group as tournament favourites Brazil, which will see Schär reunited with Toon teammate Bruno Guimarães in Gameweek 2.

Who didn’t make the squad?

The most surprising player to not make their country’s squad is Sven Botman. The former Lille centre-back has been a major part of why Newcastle has the Premier League’s best defence so far this campaign.

Louis van Gaal has a great pool of centre-backs available to him and opted for the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij and Nathan Ake over Botman.

Another Toon player with World Cup disappointment is Joelinton, who has failed to follow Bruno Guimarães on the plane to Qatar.

Joelinton has been a revelation under Eddie Howe following his remarkable transformation from a striker to a box-to-box midfielder. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Joelinton this year.

Have Your Say

Who do you think will win the World Cup?

Which Newcastle player will be the best performer?

Let us know on our Facebook page!

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What We Learnt (Spurs 1-2 Newcastle)

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deadline day

Newcastle United were victorious at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium yesterday, winning 2-1 and now sit fourth in the Premier League. This is the first time they’ve been there at this stage of the season in 10 years.

 

Goals from Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron were enough to scare away any chances of a second-half Spurs comeback. That’s six goals for Miggy in what is now his best-ever season for goals in black and white.

 

With 21 points, just five behind Manchester City and seven behind current league leaders Arsenal, the Toon are looking better than ever, but what did the victory yesterday tell us?

 

Toon are charging for Europe

 

If you didn’t believe it at the start of the season you should now. Eddie Howe has transformed Newcastle into a team with a winning mentality with a real sense of togetherness in a squad who are willing to battle for one another, week in and week out.

 

Very few teams will travel to London this season and manage to come away with a point, never mind three when playing Spurs. Not only this game, however, but Man City (3-3), Liverpool (2-1) and Brentford (5-1) have also shown that Howe and his side mean business this season and are willing to go toe to toe with some of the very best teams, coaches and players in the world. 

 

In his first signing interview, Sven Botman said, “Newcastle wants to reach the top and the top is in the league and, at the end, maybe in Europe.” Maybe he didn’t specifically mean this season but now he and the rest of his teammates should believe that they have a real chance of playing European football next season.

 

Almiron transformation shouldn’t go unnoticed

 

Almiron made 30 appearances last season in the league and finished with just one goal and no assists. Now, after just 12 games and six goals, the Paraguayan is already on course to smash his previous goal-scoring records which have seen him accumulate nine Premier League goals over the course of four seasons. 

 

Loved by the fans and with the full support of his teammates, it can only get better for the Paraguayan at this point. His goal against Tottenham showed the dribbling, flair and finishing quality he withholds, something that Steve Bruce and Rafael Benitez could never get out of him.

 

Eddie Howe must be awarded credit for this development, as with the current budget the club has, he could’ve easily found a replacement in the summer. But, just like Joelinton, Miggy has cemented his spot in Newcastle’s starting eleven and is proving every week why he deserves to be there.

 

Wilson & Burn should be considered by Southgate 

 

On TalkSport recently, Neil Warnock warned Gareth Southgate saying his loyalty to players might be his downfall and said Dan Burn is “Mr Steady Eddie” referring to his versatility, being able to play left-back or centre-back.

 

Burn started 28 Premier League games last season and this season has 11 out of 12. His consistent dominating performances in Newcastle’s back line have put him into the conversation for a first-ever England call-up and I don’t think many would disagree. With John Stoned injured, Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings not in good form and not getting regular game time, Gareth Southgate’s defensive decisions should now be a lot more challenging.

 

Callum Wilson has proved yet again his abilities as a top Premier League striker. His goal against Spurs not only put him in the headlines over England captain Harry Kane but also made it four in eight for the English man this season who has averaged 2.8 shots per game with an average scoring frequency of 162 minutes. 

 

With no clear-cut backup striker to Kane, is Wilson ahead of Ivan Toney and Tammy Abraham in the race to be England’s number two striker?

 

So, what do you think? Do Newcastle have a serious chance at European football next season, can Almiron stay at his best and should Wilson and Burn be considered for a World Cup call-up?

 

Join the conversation on our Facebook page …

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