Moussa Sissoko’s ready for the biggest game of his Newcastle United career.
Rafa Benitez’s side are preparing for Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby at St James’s Park.
Every derby is a big game. But I think it will be more so on Sunday because we are both in and around the bottom three.Moussa Sissoko
The fixture has taken on added significant given the plight of the two relegation-threatened clubs.
And Sissoko – who has NEVER been on the winning side against Sunderland given that Newcastle have lost every one of the derbies he’s played in – is under no illusions about the game’s significance.
United are second-bottom of the division, while Sam Allardyce’s side are a point ahead of them in 17th place.
“Every derby is a big game,” said Sissoko.
“But I think it will be more so on Sunday because we are both in and around the bottom three.
“We have nine games left and we want to be safe.
“This game will be crucial for us.”
Newcastle were beaten 1-0 by league leaders Leicester City on Monday night in what was manager Benitez’s first game in charge since succeeding Steve McClaren at the club.
But Benitez felt there were “positives” to taken from the defeat.
Asked if he believed the club would stay up under Benitez’s guidance, Sissoko said: “Yes, of course.
“I believe in my team. I believe in the manager. I believe in everyone.
“We are a good team and we will be in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, Siem de Jong made his comeback from a freak eye injury against Leicester.
And the forward – who came off the bench in the second half – has told of relief at finally getting back on the pitch.
De Jong said: “Last week I was fit, but I wasn’t selected for the squad, so I was a bit disappointed but I needed to train for this week.
“I’m glad to be back on the pitch.
“The eye is fine. It’s taken a while to fully heal, and it was quite a nasty injury.
“It needed treatment in the hospital. It was quite a shock when it happened, and I was quite scared about seeing normally again
“But it’s all gone back to normal, so that’s a good thing.”
* Newcastle’s game in hand – the postponed fixture against Manchester City – has been rearranged for Tuesday, April 19 (7.45pm).
The match will be shown live by Sky Sports.