NEWCASTLE United are ready to roll up their sleeves and take the battle to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
That’s the verdict of defender Mike Williamson ahead of the 149th meeting between the two sides.
Williamson and his team-mates are full of confidence after taking four points from Liverpool and Cardiff City in their last two Premier League games.
Sunderland have claimed just one solitary point all season, but Williamson – a veteran of five derbies – says form will count for nothing if the Magpies are not prepared to compete for 90 minutes.
“That will be another tough one,” Williamson said. “We know it’ll be a very tough battle to say the least, and if we don’t turn up and match them, we’ll struggle.
“We know what we’ve got in the changing room. It’s just about translating that on to the pitch on a Saturday.
“If everyone does the basics, we know we’ve got the players to cause the opposition lots of problems.
“It’s about building that consistency and momentum.”
Williamson started the season out of Alan Pardew’s side, but he returned to the starting XI against Cardiff earlier this month, and he will be partnered by Steven Taylor at the Stadium of Light if the defender proves his fitness in time.
Skipper Fabricio Coloccini is out through injury and Pardew will also be without the suspended Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, dismissed against Liverpool for bringing down Luis Suarez.
But Williamson, 29, is confident Newcastle have the strength in depth at the back to cope at the Stadium of Light.
“The manager’s had to look at the strength in depth and bring players in,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of different players coming in, but it’s all about continuing that philosophy we’ve got and staying tight and compact. If we can maintain that, it doesn’t matter who the personnel are.”
Yanga-Mbiwa was sent off with Newcastle leading Liverpool 1-0. Steven Gerrard cancelled out Yohan Cabaye’s stunning opening goal from the penalty spot before the break, but Paul Dummett put Newcastle back ahead early in the second half.
Daniel Sturridge claimed a point for the visitors with a 73rd-minute equaliser.
Reflecting on the game, Williamson said: “We’ve taken a lot of positives. It was a great point in the end.
“They were full of confidence. We only have to look at the players they’ve got. They manager’s got them playing collectively, and it was a very difficult time to face them.
“We stood up and limited their chances and created a few of our own. I think we’ve got some fantastic defensive players, and we showed our defensive qualities.”
Dummett was sent on after Yanga-Mbiwa’s dismissal, and the 22-year-old left back – who partnered Williamson in central defence – made an important contribution at both ends of the pitch.
“He deserves so much credit,” said Williamson, who hasn’t scored in 105 appearances for Newcastle.
“He’s a fantastic lad, and works his socks off in training. He’s an honest lad who plays to his strengths. He got a fantastic chance to prove himself.
“He deserves all the plaudits. It wasn’t easy coming into this situation, but he stamped his authority on the game and got himself a goal. He’s got one more than me!”