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Newcastle and Sunderland set for war of attrition

The Stadium of Light instalment of the bitterly contested Tyne/Wear derby was something of a war of attrition, ending with the spoils shared. With Newcastle fatigued from ultimately thankless European exertions and their visitors distinctly lacking in fire-power in the absence of the injured Steven Fletcher, St James’ Park could be set for a carbon copy fixture – Coral bet 4/5 on under 2.5 total match goals.

In the five years since Sunderland returned to the Premier League’s promised land derby matches against the Magpies have been almost uniformly low scoring affairs, with seven of the nine renewals providing two goals or less. Only a 5-1 St James’ Park hammering upon Newcastle’s own triumphant Premier League return bucks the trend.

Given the Mackems are in serious danger of gurgling down the Premier League plug hole – for which they can be backed at 11/8 with Coral – a similar hammering might be expected on Sunday. However their demise hasn’t be strewn with wide margin defeats, with just five of the 17 losses they’ve incurred in all competitions by more than a single goal.

They’ve the catalytic qualities of new gaffer Paulo Di Canio to gird their collective loins for this clash and Newcastle find themselves not only fatigued from midweek action, but routed once again with injuries – seven are officially out or doubtful with others such as Hatem Ben Arfa fit enough for a bit part at best.

Unlike Paulo Di Canio, Alan Pardew can at least call upon a reliable source of goals in revitalised hit man Papiss Cisse. The Senegalese has netted in his last five home games, his freshness at this stage of the campaign advertised by the fact that four of those five strikes came after the seventieth minute – he’s evens to score any time and 4/1 to score last.

Three of the last four meetings between the sides have ended with honours even and given Sunderland will feel the need to avoid defeat even more keenly than the thirst for points it’s unlikely they’ll be attacking with too much vigour. Their hosts could well be lacking the petrol to break down their keyed-up rivals and draw, at 11/5, looks the most likely result.