The Tees-Wear derby is taking place on Sunday for the first time in the league since 2009. Local rivalries provide some of the best matches of the season and it was great to see Middlesbrough finally return to the Premier League, especially as Newcastle were relegated last season. Sunderland have had a lot of success in local derbies in recent years and will be hoping to carry that on against newly-promoted Middlesbrough. Intriguingly, the sides met in the League Cup in 2012 and Boro were winners on that occasion. It is a good opportunity for both to get early points on the board.
Sunderland started their campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Although they didn’t get anything from the game, there were a lot of positives to take from the game. The Black Cats looked well organised and they didn’t concede many clear-cut chances, despite having just 23% of possession. Also Jermain Defoe opened his account for the season and he looks ready to continue his goal-scoring form from last season.
Their North East neighbours had better fortunes in their opening fixture, as they managed to pick up a point at home to Stoke City. They were resilient at the back and Stoke struggled to create chances. Aitor Karanka’s men had the best defence in the Championship last season and they will be solid again this year as they attempt to stay in the Premier League. They have a quality striker themselves in Alvaro Negredo, who bagged a debut goal and could hold the key to survival.
As David Moyes is still getting to know his new squad, it is difficult to predict how he will set-up against Middlesbrough at home. Adnan Januzaj could replace Duncan Watmore to provide the side with more creativity. He played a part in Jermain Defoe’s equaliser at Manchester City and he could provide the creativity they lacked last season. Lynden Gooch is likely to keep his place, while Paddy McNair could replace John O’Shea in central midfield. Although he scored an own goal on his debut, McNair would offer more mobility than O’Shea.
Middlesbrough are going to be forced to make a change to the side that started against Stoke, as Marten de Roon suffered a hamstring injury during the match. He will be replaced by Adam Forshaw, who has a great opportunity to prove himself in the Premier League. Daniel Ayala and Bernardo both featured for the U23s in the week, which is a welcome boost given their makeshift defence in the opener. The former could start alongside Ben Gibson, which will allow Antonio Barragan to move to his natural position of right back.
Sunderland predicted starting XI Middlesbrough predicted starting XI
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Sunderland have a number of injury concerns heading into this weekend. Jan Kirchhoff and Billy Jones are closing in on a return to action, but neither are likely to start on Sunday. Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson won’t feature this weekend as both are suffering with long term problems.
Marten de Roon joins the injury list at the Riverside Stadium, with the new signing set to miss the next month. Daniel Ayala and Bernardo are both recovering well and could feature this weekend. Grant Leadbitter and James Husband remain out of action, ruling them out of this weekend’s North East derby.
This is an underrated rivalry and it should produce an excellent contest on Sunday. Both sides will be eager to get their first win of the season and I’m expecting an even match. Sunderland under David Moyes should be a lot more organised than they have been at the start of previous seasons. They will take a lot of confidence from their display at Manchester City. Meanwhile Middlesbrough looked robust last weekend and won’t be easy to beat. I’m predicting a draw and as both teams have good defences, it could be a goalless one.