AN epic Tyne/Wear derby awaits as Newcastle host Sunderland. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) analyses the betting for us.
Newcastle v Sunderland | Sunday 13:30 | Sky Sports 1
These Tyne/Wear derbies always seem to land at just the right time in the season and this is another example of it. Both sides are deep in the relegation muck and it looks likely that at least one of them will take the drop down to the Championship.
Both enter this game with hope though. Newcastle have just appointed their best manager in years (perhaps ever?) in the cuddly shape of Rafa Benitez and he must see something in this side that makes him think they can stay up.
His opening match took place on Monday night and although they lost 1-0 to Leicester there was an improvement there. Hardly a disaster losing by the odd goal away at the league leaders when you think about it.
Benitez has been one of the most successful European managers this century and it's seem unfathomable to think he can't make a dent on things at Newcastle.
As someone who's been flying the flag for Sunderland since the late-autumn I can't believe they're still down in the deep trouble. To me it feels like they've been in good form for a while now.
Take a look at their results and that thought is backed up. Since the turn of the year they've lost just three of their 10 Premier League matches. Those defeats came against three of the Top 5 in Tottenham, Man City and West Ham.
On the plus side they've beaten Manchester United, drew at Anfield and have negotiated these fixtures with a decent amount of credit. If you had to pick holes in the form you'd highlight the dropped points at home against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth.
Before Benitez's arrival I'd have been sweet on Sunderland here but you simply have to factor the Spaniard into your calculations for this match. Three home losses in 11 matches are another positive sign for the Magpies and that's no doubt that's why they're as short as 6/5 to win here.
6/5 is too short for me and my overriding feeling about this match is that the price of defeat will be much greater than the fillip of a win for both sides.
There's so much to lose here normally in this fixture but with it being a bona fide relegation battle this time round defeat would be a colossal blow.
With that in mind I'm expecting a meek, pensive encounter with both sides conscious of showing too much of their hands. Protect and maintain will be the key words and I think both Benitez and Sam Allardyce will be happy to take a draw. With all that tension I'll chance a 0-0 draw at decent odds.
Newcastle v Sunderland – Draw (27/11 BetBright)
Newcastle v Sunderland – No Goalscorer (9/1 William Hill)
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