Sunday’s noon kick-off sees McClaren lead his rejuvenated side to the Stadium of Light for his first Tyne-Wear derby, in what is perhaps the most important north-east derby in a long time.
Both teams are currently in the relegation zone after nine games; Sunderland prop up the table with just three points, Newcastle are slightly better off in 18th with six. We can escape the relegation zone with a win, taking us above Bournemouth (who play Spurs immediately after) and onto equal points with Norwich, but above them on goal difference.
From the 18 games played between the two sides, they have a combined record of one win, six draws, and eleven losses. That single win, and nearly a third of the goals scored, came in last week’s trouncing of Norwich, as Newcastle finally decided to get their season under way… Hopefully.
“The derby is massive for the fans. There’s a determination to win it for them but it’s important we go into every game with the same amount of determination.
“We have to make sure we play the game and not the occasion.
“We don’t pay attention to the table or previous results – what we do have is a fresh game and a great opportunity to come away with three points.”
– Steve McClaren
As is fast becoming tradition, Sunderland have installed a new manager one match before the derby again; this time Sam Allardyce takes his turn with the mackems, becoming the first person to manage both sides of the divide. In his half-season at Newcastle, Allardyce presided over one Tyne-Wear derby; an away 1-1 draw coming eight years and a couple of weeks ago.
On top of any personal motivations and the desperate need to acquire points to prevent getting cut adrift already, there is another huge factor to this match. Sunderland have won the previous five derbies, equalling our best streak in the history of this fixture, one more win and they’re setting a new record. Hopefully without Pardew or Carver involved we can actually get back to winning these things.
“It’s quite bizarre to say that they Sunderland have won five on the trot, and telling me the last three managers’ second game was against Newcastle and they had all lost the first one and won the second one.
“I’m just hoping that it continues to follow on this Sunday. It’s got very little to do with me, it’s down to fate the fact that this run carries on.”
– Sam Allardyce
Rolando Aarons and Kevin Mbabu are back in contention, Gabriel Obertan is a week or two away, Karl Darlow and Steven Taylor are expected back in a month, while Tim Krul is out for the season. Emmanuel Rivière is a mystery. The mackem slayer is ineligible, but did score for Bolton on Saturday. Jack Colback is a yellow card away from a suspension, and Cheick Tioté is hopefully match fit.
As for Sunderland, Sebastián Coates and Jeremain Lens return from suspension, Jack Rodwell and Duncan Watmore are slight doubts, with Fabio Borini slightly more doubtful.
“I know they will try to provoke me but I will keep my head strong and try to score goals and help my teammates. It’s a derby. I am only 21 but I have played in a lot of big derbies, big games, and I can say I know how to play these games and score goals in them. I hope I will continue with my goals and score in my first game against Sunderland.”
– Aleksandar Mitrović
I expect McClaren to stick with the 4-4-2 and an unchanged line-up. The only potential area of contention will be the central midfield pairing, but I’ve gone with Tioté over Anita as I think his physical presence will be needed, and even if he underperformed in his half against Norwich it’s notable that we lost control of the midfield battle for a significant period after he was subbed.
The spirit of Shola will inhabit Mad Mitro as he bags a brace, our defensive frailty will let us down to even things up, but Gini will conjure some more magic and seal a win at long last. 2-3.
Where to Watch / Listen
The match is televised live on Sky Sports 1, with the main coverage starting at 11:30am. Local radio commentary, as always, is on BBC Newcastle, with talkSPORT covering it nationally.
How do you think we’ll get on in this game? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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