Picking a Combined Newcastle United-Sunderland XI

Dan Sheridan@@dansheridanContributor IJanuary 31, 2014

Picking a Combined Newcastle United-Sunderland XI

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Newcastle United and Sunderland go head-to-head in the 150th Tyne-Wear derby Saturday, with the Black Cats aiming to make it three wins in a row against their bitter rivals.

    The clash comes at a good time for Gus Poyet’s men, who have won five of their last seven games and booked themselves a place at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final in the process.

    But the Magpies have revenge on their minds following a 3-0 reverse in the same fixture last season and a 2-1 loss at the Stadium of Light in October.

    Both clubs have made signings this week, with Dutch striker Luuk de Jong joining the Toon on loan and Argentine international forward Ignacio Scocco linking up with the Wearsiders.

    Ahead of Saturday’s big game at St. James’ Park, we take a look at what a combined Newcastle-Sunderland XI would look like based on current form and players who are not missing through injury.

Goalkeeper: Tim Krul

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    While Sunderland have relied on Keiren Westwood and Vito Mannone between the posts this season, Tim Krul has been the picture of consistency for Newcastle United.

    The Dutch international has been a key component in his side’s rise up the Premier League table, and much of the Magpies’ stability at the back is thanks to the 25-year-old.

    The former ADO Den Haag stopper has his sights set on starring at next summer’s World Cup, and given his form this term, few would bet against him realising his dream.

Full-Backs: Mathieu Debuchy and Marcos Alonso

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    Newcastle full-back Mathieu Debuchy
    Newcastle full-back Mathieu DebuchyScott Heppell/Associated Press

    At right-back, Mathieu Debuchy has been a revelation for Newcastle United this season after struggling to adapt to life in England’s top flight when he arrived a year ago.

    The French international is another Toon player with one eye on the World Cup in Brazil, and his return from a recent three-game suspension has been welcomed at St. James’ Park.

    On the other flank, Marcos Alonso has already won his fair share of fans at Sunderland despite arriving only a matter of weeks ago on loan from Serie A side Fiorentina.

    The Madrid-born defender was named man of the match on his Black Cats debut against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup and has figured under Gus Poyet in every Premier League game since.

Centre-Backs: Wes Brown and Mike Williamson

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    Sunderland defender Wes Brown
    Sunderland defender Wes BrownSCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press

    Sunderland boss Gus Poyet paid Wes Brown the ultimate compliment earlier this month, suggesting the 34-year-old defender could play on until he is 40 if he wanted to, as reported by Sky Sports.

    The former Manchester United man has been a reliable asset to the Black Cats this term and has played a big part in his side’s recent rise out of the relegation places.

    On Tyneside, Mike Williamson has been one of the surprises of the season at the heart of Newcastle’s back four and has won over his doubters with a string of consistent performances.

    The 30-year-old began the current campaign as the Toon’s fourth-choice centre-back but has shone since his introduction to the team at the end of September. Williamson has a big part to play in the absence of the injured Fabricio Coloccini.

Central Midfield: Cheick Tiote and Ki Sung-Yueng

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    Cheick Tiote
    Cheick TioteScott Heavey/Getty Images

    Cheick Tiote wasn’t alone in having a campaign to forget for Newcastle United last season, but this term has been a completely different story for the tough-tackling Ivorian.

    The 27-year-old has rediscovered the kind of form that endeared him to Toon fans following his arrival in 2010, and his all-action displays in front of the Magpies’ back four have been pivotal.

    At Sunderland, Ki Sung-Yueng has caught the eye, netting the only goal of the game at Everton on Boxing Day and a dramatic, last-gasp winner against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup nine days earlier.

    The midfielder, on loan from Swansea City, also scored one and assisted one in the Black Cats’ 4-1 win at Fulham this month—a victory that lifted Gus Poyet’s men off the bottom of the table.

Wingers: Adam Johnson and Hatem Ben Arfa

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    Adam Johnson (right)
    Adam Johnson (right)Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Adam Johnson is one of the Premier League’s form players at this moment in time, and he has either scored or provided an assist in Sunderland’s last seven goals.

    The former Manchester City winger bagged the winner against Stoke City on Wednesday—a victory that lifted the Black Cats out of the bottom three for the first time since August.

    At St. James’ Park, Hatem Ben Arfa hasn’t featured in Alan Pardew’s starting XI of late, though he could play an important part for the remainder of the season following Yohan Cabaye’s exit.

    The Frenchman played some exquisite passes during the Toon’s goalless draw at Norwich City on Tuesday, and his ingenuity remains a lethal weapon in the Magpies’ armoury.

Strikers: Loic Remy and Fabio Borini

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    Fabio Borini celebrates his winner against Newcastle in October.
    Fabio Borini celebrates his winner against Newcastle in October.Associated Press

    Though he’ll be missing due to suspension for Saturday’s derby, there’s no denying Loic Remy has been one of Newcastle United’s standout players so far this season.

    His 11 Premier League goals make the on-loan forward the Toon’s top scorer this term, and the way he leads the line has earned him huge praise on a regular basis.

    At the Stadium of Light, another on-loan striker has already etched himself into Sunderland folklore by scoring the winner against the Magpies in the corresponding clash in October.

    Fabio Borini also netted in their semi-final, first-leg victory over Manchester United in the Capital One Cup and has become a big favourite on the terraces on Wearside.