Newcastle v Sunderland: Three key battles that will decide Tyne-Wear derby

Newcastle United host Sunderland later this month
Newcastle United host Sunderland later this month
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Anticipation is building ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby a week on Sunday, with both Sunderland and Newcastle scrapping for Premier League survival.

We take a look at three key battles that will decide the biggest derby of a generation.

Lamine Kone v Aleksandar Mitrovic:

One on hand, you have Sunderland’s new £5million defender who has taken to life in the Premier League with ease since arriving from Lorient in January.

And on the other, a £15million striker that has scored just six goals in 30 games since arriving from Anderlecht.

Steve McClaren named Emmanuel Riviere up front for the 3-1 home defeat to AFC Bournemouth.

But Mitrovic, 21, is likely to return for the visit of Sunderland after Riviere was hauled off at half-time.

And Mitrovic won’t get much change out of 27-year-old Kone, whose physical approach leaves few prisoners.

Jan Kirchhoff v Georginio Wijnaldum:

Few could argue with Sam Allardyce’s January signings, with Kirchhoff proving to be one of the steals of the transfer window at just £750,000.

Another North East success story (one of the few) has been Wijnaldum - especially at home - with the forward netting 10 goals in 35 games for Newcastle.

Holding midfielder Kirchhoff is likely to be tasked with keeping Wijnaldum quiet. This battle could prove key.

Jermain Defoe v Newcastle’s defence:

Dame N’Doye started at Southampton but 14-goal top scorer Jermain Defoe came off the bench to score.

And his experience, quality and clinical finishing could prove the difference with Sunderland searching for a seventh straight derby win.

Two from Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Jamaal Lascelles will be tasked with nullifying Defoe’s threat. No easy task.

Remember last season’s stunning winner at the Stadium of Light?