John O’Shea v Demba Ba
Demba Ba has been in fine form for Newcastle this season and he may be asked to lead the front line on his own if Alan Pardew goes for a five man midfield. John O’Shea is one of the more experienced defenders that Sunderland have at their disposal. He will have to stay disciplined because Ba is going to be trying to pull him out of position throughout the match.
Sebastian Larsson v James Perch
Sebastian Larsson has struggled to have an impact at Sunderland this season because he has been forced to play inside due to the club’s situation and also through great defensive tactics from the opposition. James Perch is extremely quick and will play down the side of the pitch that Larsson utilises when he plays out wide. Perch has the pace to keep the wide man at bay and this will be a crucial encounter.
Craig Gardner v Hatem Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa is going to be one of the main attacking threats for Newcastle in this game. He will be used as an attacking midfield player on the counter attack. Gardner is a defensively minded player who will most likely be given the job of breaking up the play if Newcastle try to counter with the home side high up the pitch. Expect Gardner to get booked at some point as he may have to commit a deliberate foul on the Newcastle player.
James McClean v Davide Santon
Davide Santon was not really tested in the defeat against Manchester United owing to the fact that United played with a narrow formation. It will be the complete opposite when he has to deal with James McClean. McClean is used as an out and out winger and his pace and trickery will be a big test for the former Inter Milan defender. If Santon can keep McClean quiet then it will go a long way towards a win.
Steven Fletcher v Mike Williamson
This is a battle between two players who are not shy of making things a little dirty as they play if they need to. Fletcher is always under pressure playing for Sunderland because they had to pay a lot of money to get him. If Williamson can get stuck in, deal with Fletcher defensively and do his best to wind him up then it could be a long and frustrating day at the office for the Sunderland attack.