The standout fixture of the FA Cup third round weekend may be between Premier League title challengers Arsenal and Liverpool, but Newcastle United’s trip to Sunderland on Saturday is equally important, if not more so.
The Tyne-Wear derby is one of the biggest in England, yet it hasn’t taken place since a 1-1 draw in March 2016.
Aleksandr Mitrovic and Jermain Defoe were on the scoresheet that day, with Sunderland eventually relegating Newcastle to the Championship in May, following a 3-0 win over Everton.
The following season saw Sunderland finish rock bottom of the Premier League, while Newcastle stormed the second-tier and reclaimed their place back in the top flight.
The Magpies haven’t been relegated since and are now a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, Sunderland suffered another relegation after their fall to the Championship and spent four years in League One obscurity.
They finally returned to the Championship in 2022 and nearly clinched an immediate return to the top flight before falling at the play-off hurdle.
While Sunderland have struggled in recent years, their neighbours Newcastle have enjoyed a drastic rise back towards the very top of the English football pyramid since the Saudi Arabia takeover in late 2021.
The Magpies finished fourth in the Premier League last season and earned their place in the 2023-24 Champions League group stages as a result.
Their time in Europe didn’t go to plan, however. With Howe hamstrung by injuries, Newcastle finished bottom of Group F, behind Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.
They did manage a historic win over PSG at St James’ Park though – a result that will live long in the memories of Magpies fans.
Therefore, the meeting on Saturday afternoon promises to be an enthralling encounter, with Sunderland hoping to upset the odds in front of a buoyant home crowd and Newcastle aiming to silence the Stadium of Light once again.
The vast financial gap between Newcastle and Sunderland
Newcastle’s rise to prominence in recent years has been aided by their newly-acquired funds and their transfer budget dwarfs that of their local rivals.
Alexander Isak (€70 million) is the Magpies’ most expensive signing of all-time following his move from Real Sociedad in 2022. By comparison, Sunderland’s record arrival is Didier Ndong, who joined the club for €20m in 2016 – he would be Newcastle’s 15th most expensive signing in history.
Furthermore, Sunderland have not spent over €3m on a single player since Will Grigg was purchased from Wigan Athletic in 2019 (€3.4m).
The 10 most expensive Newcastle signings of all time
|1. Alexander Isak
|2. Sandro Tonali
|3. Anthony Gordon
|4. Harvey Barnes
|6. Bruno Guimaraes
|7. Tino Livramento
|8. Sven Botman
|9. Chris Wood
|10. Joe Willock
In addition, Newcastle will be without two forgotten men who are more valuable than the entire Sunderland squad combined.
Sandro Tonali joined Howe’s side for €64m in 2023, but he hasn’t featured since October after he was found guilty of betting breaches. The Italian will miss the rest of the 2023-24 season, but he still has an Estimated Transfer Value (ETV) of €60.9m.
Joining Tonali on the sidelines is fellow summer signing Harvey Barnes, who hasn’t played a single minute of action since he suffered a foot injury during Newcastle’s 8-0 win over Sheffield United in September.
In total, the ex-Leicester City winger has made just seven appearances in all competitions for Newcastle, with only two Premier League starts to his name. His ETV stands at €40.4m
Tonali and Barnes – who haven’t featured for Newcastle in over two months – have a combined ETV of €101.3m. That figure is higher than the ENTIRE Sunderland squad combined (€86.1m).
Goalkeeper Anthony Patterson (€12.2m ETV) is Sunderland’s most valuable player, ahead of Jack Clarke (€8.8m ETV) and Trai Hume (€6.7m).