ALAN Pardew says Sunderland are “favourites” in Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby – because of the demands of tonight’s Europa League clash against Benfica, writes MILES STARFORTH.
Pardew’s side take on the Portuguese side in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final.
The demanding fixture – Newcastle trail Benfica 3-1 from the first leg – is followed by Sunderland’s visit to St James’s Park.
While Paolo Di Canio has had a clear week to prepare his side for the 148th derby, Pardew and his players have been focused on the European tie.
Pardew feels his Sunderland counterpart – whose side are tipped to be relegated from the Premier League by the bookmakers – will have an advantage as a result.
“I think it’s a disadvantage for us,” Pardew said.
“To play Thursday night, and their management here to watch us go through a really tough game, is what I would want as an opposing manager.
“I think Sunderland will be slight favourites for that game. Having said that, it’s about Benfica. We’ll see where we are after the game.”
Whatever his misgivings about the timing of the derby, Pardew is confident his January signings will be up to speed and ready for the challenge of playing a derby game.
All of the Magpies’ five transfer-window acquisitions have made an impact since arriving.
And the more Premier League games they play, the better they will get, according to Pardew, whose side beat Fulham 1-0 at St James’s Park on Sunday.
“It’s like anything else – you’re going to have ups and downs. But the more experience you get in this division, the more you get used to it.
“Who would have thought that Fulham would play with the commitment they did on 39 points?
“No other league would have a team that would come with that commitment. It’s a learning experience for them.”