Wise Men Say: Black Cats on the prowl for Tyne-Wear derby

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THIS is the game that could ruin Christmas.

I’m fortunate enough that I won’t have to encounter a Newcastle supporting family member over the holidays.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I actually have any. If I did I’ve probably disowned them!

Nobody wants to sit down to a dinner next Thursday with provocatively arranged vegetables on the plate, letting you know the scoreline of the game you just don’t want to lose.

It’s funny. You’d probably be happy to take a draw at St James’s Park and hopefully win your home game in the corresponding fixture.

Though for Sunderland, most recent successes against them up the road have come on their own patch.

However, our succession of stalemates this season gives Gus Poyet food for thought.

After the West Ham game, Gus suggested he was fed up of drawing. He also suggested he was doing all he can with the players at his disposal.

On Sunday, he should have Emanuele Giaccherini back in the fold. With Ricky Alvarez fully fit and looking stronger, will he be tempted to give him a start?

And if he does start him, where will he play?

Alan Pardew is absolutely desperate to win a Derby. That desire could be his side’s downfall.

They’ll certainly be more open than we will, and we’ll have to exploit that.

This season, Poyet has set his side up to keep it tight, away from home, for the first 20-25 minutes.

I think he’ll adopt this approach once more and attempt to capitalise on Newcastle’s derby day desperation.

We’ve seen over the past few years that they’ve struggled to cope with the occasion.

I can see Newcastle going gung ho. If they do, that’s going to give us the best chance of a fourth consecutive derby win.

I’d like to see Larsson and Cattermole at the base of the midfield, snuffing out second balls, with Alvarez as the third man.

If he can pick up space, he’ll have the chance to release Johsnon and Wickham earlier and get at the Newcastle back line as quickly as possible.

People often criticise Lee Cattermole for his over zealous approach to the battling element of the game.

On the other hand, I look at someone like Daryl Janmaat. He’s a very good player, but he certainly has the air of a red card about him.

In the intensity of a derby, I’d like to see wingers willing to go at him and make him make a rash decision.

Then there’s their goalkeeping situation. Be it Alnwick, or possibly Woodman, you’d have thought an experienced forward like Steven Fletcher would be asking his team-mates to hang one up for him early on.

We have to be ruthless and gain any advantage we can.

This is the kind of game where it is expected, and you can get away with it.

I’d like to think Fletcher might even have a word in the keepers’ ear and let him know exactly what to expect.

Chuck the Jack Colback situation into the mix and it makes an intriguing contest even more so.

It should be one the most interesting and evenly contested derbies we’ve had in a while. I really fancy us, and I think Poyet will do a job on Pardew once more.

Another 3-0 victory would be a lovely early Christmas gift. I’d take a scrappy 1-0, though.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.