Newcastle United-Sunderland Preview
With the struggles of both Sunderland and Newcastle United, Sunday's match at the Stadium of Light has the added sense of early desperation to avoid the drop in addition to being the 155th Wear-Tyne derby.
Both teams are currently in the relegation zone, marking the first time the derby is taking place with the two sides in the bottom three since 2002. Newcastle (1-3-5) broke their duck last Sunday with a 6-2 rout of Norwich City, climbing to 18th in the table, while Sunderland (0-3-6) remain at the foot and are the only Premier League team without a victory.
Last weekend, Georginio Wijnaldum netted the Magpies' first two goals and their last two around markers by Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic, while Moussa Sissoko pulled the strings in the midfield and recorded three assists.
"I think that sort of result was coming," goalkeeper Rob Elliott told Newcastle's official website after winning his season debut. "There's still things to improve on - you don't want to concede two at home - but the response from our players when Norwich had us pegged back was fantastic."
Elliott will again be between the sticks with first-choice goalkeeper Tim Krul out for the season with a torn ACL and No. 2 Karl Darlow still sidelined by an ankle injury.
Newcastle doubled their season scoring total with last week's outburst, and manager Steve McClaren insists his side are looking only ahead and not dwelling on their current five-game losing streak to their North East rivals.
"We don't know anything about the five previous games and neither do half the team," he told the team's official website. "The approach for this game is no different and should be no different. We have to play the game and not the occasion."
Sunderland, though, are keen to savour another such occasion after the most recent derby victory, coming April 5 on Jermain Dafoe's thunderous left-footed volley from 22 yards in first-half stoppage time that flew into the upper-right corner for the match's only goal. The veteran striker is hoping new manager Sam Allardyce will give him a chance to deliver more heroics for the faithful at the Stadium of Light.
"It's got that final day feeling and when we came down the tunnel, the roar, it was just amazing," Dafoe told SAFSEE, the team's official video channel. "It was a special day and when you experience that you want to taste that again and hopefully on Sunday we can get our first win of the season.
"It was just crazy. Sometimes it's hard to put into words when you score a goal, but to score against Newcastle and how I scored was an unbelievable feeling. I knew at that moment I did something special that people will talk about for a long time."
Allardyce - the sixth manager to grace the Wearside touchline the last four seasons - is the latest to be charged with the seemingly annual task of helping Sunderland avoid the drop, and his tenure started with a 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion last Sunday. The Black Cats had only two shots on target, and Dafoe did have a 19-minute stint off the bench after not seeing the pitch in the previous two matches.
Sunderland, unbeaten in their last seven against Newcastle, are trying to become the first team to win six straight matches in the Wear-Tyne derby, having outscored Newcastle 10-1 during their current run. Allardyce will be the first manager to have run both North East sides in the derby, and a victory by the Black Cats would deadlock the all-time series at 53 wins apiece in addition to the sides splitting the points on 49 occasions.