BY THIS WEEKEND, Dick Advocaat will have had more than two weeks to prepare his players for a derby that could have huge consequences.
Not only does Advocaat have to get his team selection and tactics right, but he also has to improve a group of players that seem to have a mental block when it comes to home games.
The one-off nature of these fixtures is like nothing else and Newcastle are probably the one team Sunderland have a psychological advantage over, having won the previous four encounters
Only two wins at the Stadium of Light all season, and the last outing a 4-0 defeat, isn’t the sort of form to take into such a high-profile game, but maybe a derby is just what Sunderland need right now.
The one-off nature of these fixtures is like nothing else and Newcastle are probably the one team Sunderland have a psychological advantage over, having won the previous four encounters.
Having Lee Cattermole available again after suspension is a massive boost for Sunderland and as long as he keeps his composure in what is bound to be a frantic atmosphere, he will be a key figure and major influence on the team.
If Cattermole had played in the embarrassing Villa defeat, we may well still have lost, but I doubt very much he would have allowed the team to fall apart so easily and I for one am glad he’s back.
Up against Cattermole in the crucial midfield area, could be Jack Colback, on his first return to the Stadium of Light, and he’ll be determined to put on a show.
Due to injuries, Colback filled in at left-back in his last game for Newcastle, but wherever he plays, he’s sure to get a hostile reception from the Sunderland fans after his summer defection to our biggest rivals.
Dick Advocaat named an attacking line-up in his first game as Sunderland boss and I’m hoping he’s as brave on Sunday, as Newcastle have problems at the back with injury and suspension hampering John Carver’s team selection.
The absence of Fabricio Coloccini in particular will be a blow to the Newcastle head coach.
Overall, I don’t see a great deal between the two teams – both are out of form, but have a seriously strong motivation to win, other than the normal importance of winning a derby.
Newcastle will be desperate to stop the rot of four consecutive defeats, while Sunderland’s need is just as great from their precarious position in the Premier League.
That all points to a game that won’t necessarily be high on entertainment or quality, but with the stakes so high, nobody from either camp will complain too much about any sort of win, no matter how it is achieved.