Sunderland have a sensational record over arch rivals Newcastle United in recent seasons, and are desperately in need of another Wear-Tyne derby victory in Sam Allardyce’s first home match in charge.
No matter who the manager has been, Sunderland have always had the better of this fixture home and away over the last three years, winning the last five. Here, Allardyce has the chance to extend one of football’s great ongoing coincidences, as each of his three predecessors have won their second game in charge of the Black Cats, all against Newcastle. His only previous experience of this fixture as a manager came in the opposition dugout in 2007 as the sides played out a 1-1 draw.
The 60-year-old lost the first game of his tenure last weekend through a controversial goal at West Bromwich Albion, but they did not pose much of a threat in attack. Big-money summer signing Fabio Borini is yet to get off the mark in terms of goals, so it is high time – if fit to play a part – that he delivers in a fixture which Sunderland must win, as they sit bottom of the Premier League already six points from safety and still waiting for their first win.
The visitors only ended their own wait for a three-point haul last time out against Norwich City, and they did it style by hitting six. It was a result that eased the pressure on Head Coach Steve McClaren and will have boosted the team’s confidence significantly ahead of this crucial encounter. Here, there is the tantalising incentive of moving six points above their opponents and moving closer to escaping the bottom three, so they will not hold back in their attempts to end a period of hurt which dates back to August 2011.
Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic were both on target against the Canaries, but the star was undoubtedly Georginio Wijnaldum, who took his tally to six Premier League goals for the season with a match-winning quartet. His combination play with the attacking livewire that is Moussa Sissoko should reap its rewards over time, provided that the team remains tight at the other end. Norwich were not able to fully exploit their frailties, but a better team might be.
Borini may shake off an ankle problem in time to play for Sunderland, who welcome back Jeremain Lens and Sebastian Coates after respective bans.
There are no new injury problems for Newcastle, but Kevin Mbabu and Rolando Aarons are both back from injury.
Played for both – Lee Clark: A key player in the excellent Newcastle team of the 1990s under Kevin Keegan, the midfielder scored nine goals in 120 Premier League appearances in his first spell at the club. He then spent two years with their biggest rivals, helping them to promotion from the second tier in 1999. He rejoined Newcastle in 2005 for the final season of his professional career, where his only goal came at home to Middlesbrough.