CHEIK Tiote and Vurnon Anita have been backed to win the midfield battle at St James’s Park.
Tiote will captain Newcastle United against Sunderland in the 150th Tyne-Wear derby.
And the combative player will have the technically-gifted Anita alongside him.
The sale of Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain has left a yawning gap in the club’s midfield.
But United manager Alan Pardew feels Tiote and Anita can step up in tomorrow’s game.
Paredw is also confident that Tiote, sent off at the Stadium of Light last season, can keep his discipline in what will a fraught and intense game.
“I think Cheik’s been our best player this season other than perhaps Yohan,” Pardew said.
“The captain’s armband seems to fit well with him.
“He likes that responsibility. I don’t think he’ll have any problems on Saturday, discipline-wise.
“Him and Vurn have been really good for us in recent weeks.”
Meanwhile, Pardew will today assess the fitness of Yoan Gouffran and Papiss Demba Cisse.
The pair – who missed Tuesday night’s game against Norwich City through injury – are both doubtful.
Gouffran has a muscle problem, while Cisse has a back problem.
“Papiss hass been running, but I think he’s slightly doubtful,” said Pardew.
“I’m hopeful, though, but Gouff’s struggling.”
Otherwise, Pardew – who was also without Gabriel Obertan at Carrow Road – has no fresh injury worries.