8 key areas where the Wear-Tyne derby will be won and lost

Adam Johnson celebrates his last-gasp winner against Newcastle
Adam Johnson celebrates his last-gasp winner against Newcastle

It’s another crucial Wear-Tyne derby this weekend with Sunderland bottom of the Premier League and Newcastle United also in the relegation zone.

We look at where the Stadium of Light clash will potentially be won and lost this Sunday.

Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez

Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez

1. Big Sam v Big Mac

Both Sam Allardyce and Steve McClaren are vastly experienced, and have a close rivalry dating back 15 years when they were in charge of Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough respectively.

And there’s not much to chose between the two, with four wins for McClaren and three for Allardyce in their 12 encounters.

However, the Magpies manager has come out on top in the two biggest battles of all – the 2005 Capital One Cup final and the race for the England job a year later.

Fabio Borini celebrates scoring a penalty at St James's Park

Fabio Borini celebrates scoring a penalty at St James's Park

2. Can Sunderland’s defence handle Newcastle’s dynamic duo?

Newcastle’s upturn in fortunes is based largely on McClaren’s decision to pair Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic in attack in recent games.

The pair individually were on the scoresheet against Chelsea and Manchester City before both hit the target in the 6-2 demolition of Norwich.

Perez’s energy, movement and workrate is infectious and has re-energised the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum behind him, while Mitrovic offers a different outlet, allowing Newcastle to go long which they didn’t have while he was suspended.

Cheick Tiote

Cheick Tiote

Sunderland’s two central defenders, John O’Shea and Younes Kaboul, could have their hands full containing the Spaniard and Serbian strikeforce.

3. Sunderland have weight of history on their side

No team has ever won six derbies between Sunderland and Newcastle on the bounce, so the Black Cats have the chance to make history.

Their five-in-a-row sequence should mean that, regardless of their Premier League position, they go into the game full of confidence and belief.

Newcastles United's Georginio Wijnaldum

Newcastles United's Georginio Wijnaldum

Add to that the new manager statistic – Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat all beat Newcastle in their second game in charge – and it could be written in the stars for a home win.

4. It’s Fab to have Borini back

Fabio Borini is something of a talisman for Sunderland in these games.

The Italian smashed home the winner the last time he played in a derby at the Stadium of Light, then followed it up the same season with a penalty at St James’s Park to send his side on the way to a 3-0 success.

He missed out on the two wins last season but his return from Liverpool gives Sunderland an added dimension in attack.

An interesting stat emerged this week that Borini, apparently, hasn’t had a shot on target in the Premier League since January 17.

Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson

What’s the betting he ends that run on Sunday?

5. If you can keep your head while all around are losing theirs...

It’s not been the best of starts to the season for either Lee Cattermole or Cheik Tiote, but both are now back in the starting XI for their respective teams.

And who keeps their cool in the white-hot derby atmosphere could go a long way to helping seal victory for their side.

There’ll certainly be tackles flying in on Sunday, with Cattermole and Tiote joined by Yann M’Vila and Jack Colback, while Mitrovic, Daryl Janmaat, Jeremain Lens and Kaboul have all seen red this season too.

Cattermole has three yellow cards this season, to go with 14 in 28 appearances last term, but his discipline has been OK in derbies, bar the red card he received after the final whistle in 2012.

Tiote, who was sent off at the Stadium of Light three years ago, returned to the Newcastle side on Sunday and promptly picked up his customary booking after just six minutes against Norwich. The Ivorian looked rusty and was subbed at half-time, so he is by no means certain of a start this weekend.

6. Gini can grant Newcastle’s wishes

The Magpies have unearthed a gem in Gini Wijnaldum and Sunderland must be on their mettle to contain the Dutchman.

Wijnaldum offers Newcastle a goal threat from midfield that they’ve not had since Kevin Nolan left, and we all know his record in these fixtures.

Wijnaldum is likely to start out on the left of midfield, but drifts into pockets of space and is deceptively dangerous in the air – four of his six goals have come from headers.

DeAndre Yedlin at right-back will have to mark the Dutchman more tightly than Norwich’s Steven Whittaker did.

7. Can AJ replicate his St James’s Park form at Stadium of Light?

While Borini has a great record against Newcastle, it pales when put alongside Adam Johnson’s.

The winger was on the Magpies’ books as a youngster, but has returned to haunt them since joining Sunderland.

He particularly favours St James’s Park, scoring in the last three seasons on Tyneside, but has yet to find a derby goal on Wearside.

Johnson was a 61st-minute sub on Saturday as Allardyce opted for the more defesnive-minded Seb Larsson from the start against West Brom, but should he decide to go for a more attacking line-up then Johnson could be handed a key role.

Against Newcastle’s porous defence, he’d certainly fancy his chances.

8. Which Moussa Sissoko will turn up?

The French midfielder has flattered to deceive for too much of his Newcastle United career but on his day, remains a potent player, as he showed with four assists against Norwich.

However, Sissoko has gone missing in recent derby encounters and Newcastle fans haven’t been shy in reminding him.

If the barnstorming, strong running Sissoko turns up on Sunday, Newcastle could be in business. If it’s another meek, invisible performance, however, Sunderland will win the midfield battle.