Who will stand up to be counted in Sunday’s derby?

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It is pretty much a guarantee that come 1:30pm this Sunday; the North East will come to a standstill for what is unquestionably the biggest game of the season for two clubs: Newcastle United entertaining rivals Sunderland.

Always a pleasant run-in to the game, I feel somewhat excluded on this occasion, as this is my first derby game away from the North East and away from the inevitable banter and tension that adds to the unbeatable atmosphere on match day.

However, it is not only off the pitch rivalries that intrigue me, with this derby being one of the closest match ups in many recent years. After speaking to many Newcastle fans it is clear that they too feel that the squads are pretty similar going into the first of this year’s derby matches.

But I remain determined to prove the added strength Sunderland have in each area of the field, by comparing players of each position to one another, from an unbiased point of view of course!

Goalkeeper: Tim Krul (Newcastle) v Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)

Steve Bruce has a tough call to make regarding his goalkeeper for such a big fixture, with the return of a newly-fit Craig Gordon. Mignolet’s recent performances warrant him a start though, especially as the keeper has masterminded Sunderland’s defence and conceded the second fewest goals in the league so far.

Mignolet may not have much experience on Krul but from what I have seen of the pair, I feel he is a more competent goalkeeper (maybe with the exception of catching) and hopefully he can be error free on Sunday afternoon.

Defence: Fabricio Collocini (Newcastle) v Titus Bramble (Sunderland)

One of the key areas Sunderland will look to exploit is Newcastle’s defence. If Bruce takes the risk by playing Bent and Gyan as a partnership, the Newcastle backline could have serious issues of pace to deal with.

Collocini arrived in the Premier League with a big reputation, yet has never fulfilled this expectation with bizarre moments and inability to control centre forwards.

This is not to say Titus Bramble is completely devoid of any wrongdoings in recent seasons. Bramble was often one of my favourite players years ago for the sole reason of how prone to mistakes he was at times when at Newcastle, yet this season has impressed me with his consistency, strength and how comfortable he looks on the ball.

I feel this game could be won and lost on the basis of some form of defensive error and hopefully it’s Bramble who keeps his cool.

- Tomorrow our man in the know looks at the players he thinks will have key roles to play in midfield and attack.


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