GARY Bennett says that he would be tempted to go 4-4-2 at the Sports Direct Arena tomorrow and take the game to Newcastle United.
The former Black Cats captain and current radio pundit feels defence is the Magpies’ weak point and believes the Black and Whites would struggle against the skill of Stephane Sessegnon and the pace of Fraizer Campbell.
But he pointed out that whatever Martin O’Neill’s plans might be – and the Sunderland manager will have been pondering them all week – much is likely to depend on the condition in which his players have returned from international duties this week.
Bennett told the Echo: “Every Sunderland fan will have their own ideas about team selection and tactics but that’s half the fun of a big game like this.
“The pubs and clubs will be full of people arguing and shouting about what the manager should do and I think that’s great – it’s part of the anticipation of the derby.
“Personally, I’d like to see Sunderland be positive and start with two strikers.
“I think it sends the right signals out to the fans and to the opposition and I do think you can get at Newcastle – Fulham and Spurs have shown that in recent weeks – and I think in a derby you have to be able to give as good as you get.
“Newcastle set up 4-4-2, so that might be another incentive for us to think of doing that.
“I think you’d get balance on the wings because you’d have Seb Larsson who can put a set-piece away well and you’d have James McClean on the left who loves to run at defenders.
“The final decision of course comes down to the manager and he has had success with a 4-5-1 formation. It has worked well on several occasions, most notably against Arsenal in the FA Cup but then we played that system at the Hawthorns last week and suffered our worst defeat of the decision.
“These are all things that Martin O’Neill will be weighing up, but ultimately it might all be taken out of his hands by what happens in the internationals this week.
“Sunderland have virtually their whole team away on international duty and Martin O’Neill won’t have his first proper training session with them until Friday.
“Part of that though will be assessing what knocks players have and how serious they might be – Sessegnon for example has to travel back from Africa, so fatigue also has to be considered.
“Whatever happens though, the one thing you can guarantee is that the excitement will build all the way up until kick-off.
“I’d love to see Sunderland pull off a win but I know it won’t be easy.
“And if I had one wish for the game itself it would simply be that Sunderland do themselves justice, because the last few derbies they’ve just been a shadow of what they should have been.”