THERE are two massive Premier League games on Sunday and I’m struggling to call either of them.
First up it’s a Tyne-Wear derby between Newcastle and Sunderland followed by Liverpool v Arsenal which could be a cracker.
Newcastle have suffered successive heavy defeats at Arsenal in the league and Spurs in the Capital One Cup but before that Alan Pardew’s men beat Chelsea at home and have lost just two of their last 10 in the top flight.
However, they have lost their last three against Sunderland so the pressure is on Pardew to give the Toon Army the perfect Christmas present.
Newcastle have doubts about Steven Taylor, Cheick Tiote and Sammy Ameobi and Papiss Cisse but the biggest problem is with the keeper’s jersey and third-choice Jak Alnwick will start after conceding nine against Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
Sunderland have won just two games this season – although they have drawn 10 others – and Gus Poyet is under pressure again with his side just above the drop zone.
When you look at form Newcastle are justifiable favourites – a best 11-10 with the likes of bet365 and Paddy Power – but their record against Sunderland gives me the jitters and while I’d edge with the home I’m making my main bet under 2.5 goals with Sunderland having three 0-0s and two 1-1s in their last six.
Sunderland have netted just 14 goals this season and Newcastle have hit 10 in seven so under 2.5 goals has a chance at 31-40 with McBookie and BetVictor.
Six of Newcastle’s seven home games and four of Sunderland’s seven away games have been level at half-time so a draw after 45 minutes is worth a look at 11-10 with bet365.
There has been a sending-off in four of the last eight meetings as well as plenty of yellows so consider a red at 2-1 with BetVictor.
Liverpool were my Super Single at Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday and while they won comfortably despite a late scare I don’t know how that will boost their chances of beating Arsenal.
Last season the Reds blew away the Gunners 5-1 after an electric start that saw them score four early goals but Luis Suarez is a big miss and Daniel Sturridge remains crocked.
Raheem Sterling hit two in that famous win and put his nightmare misses at Man Utd behind him with a double at Bournemouth and he’ll be confident again – and will be needed with Mario Balotelli serving his Twitter ban.
Problems remain at the back with centre-back Dejan Lovren struggling and Brad Jones not looking any better than Simon Mignolet who he has replaced between the sticks.
Arsenal are in better shape than Liverpool but 16 points off the title pace and once again their hopes rest on making the Champions League.
The Gunners have won five of six games in all competitions but won just five of their last 12 away games so while I expect them to edge this I don’t if I’m confident to back them at a best 13-8 with firms such as bet365 and Paddy Power. However, their Anfield record is good – one defeat in seven – so I’ll take Arsenal draw no bet at 10-11 with bet365.
Arsenal have doubts over Nacho Monreal, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but will be without Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil.
So a lot of top men are missing but one is playing and 13-goal Alexis Sanchez will be a key performer. He is 15-8 at Ladbrokes to net.
Newcastle v Sunderland HT draw
Newcastle v Sunderland under 2.5 goals
(31-40, McBookie, BetVictor)
Arsenal draw no bet
Sanchez to score