Fabio Borini believes the business end of the campaign brings out the best in him – particularly if there’s 50,000 Newcastle fans baying for his blood.
Sunderland forward Borini will make his first derby appearance since February 2014’s 3-0 St James’s Park triumph this weekend after missing October’s win over Newcastle with an ankle injury.
The Italian netted in each meeting with Newcastle during his season-long loan at the Stadium of Light after demonstrating the knack of scoring in high-stakes encounters, including goals in the League Cup semi-final and final.
Borini was at it again when he grabbed a precious last-gasp equaliser for Sunderland against Crystal Palace earlier this month, before he was the Black Cats’ most threatening attacker in their last Premier League outing at Southampton.
And the £10million January signing says this is the time of the year which he revels, with the prospect of a hostile St James’s this weekend only spurring him on even more.
Borini told the Gazette: “I like it when there’s more pressure. I prefer it. That’s what I wanted to play with when I was a kid.
“Playing for clubs like Chelsea, Roma and Liverpool you have to win every game to try to win the league.
“That’s the kind of pressure I want.
“The pressure might make things a bit tricky for some.
“But I prefer it being at St James’ Park.
“I prefer all the stadium against you than all the stadium in favour because if you do well against 50,000 people, the feeling is better.
“You can feel like you beat 50,000 people on your own. At home you know they’re on your side even if you don’t win.
“It’s good to upset 50,0000 people.”
Borini’s second coming at Sunderland has not lived up to heights of his previous spell, yet he hasn’t played more than three consecutive games since October due to illness, injury and falling out of favour.
But at Southampton, the 24-year-old looked far sharper and he netted a brace in a behind-close-doors game against Livingston last week.
He said: “Physically I’ve always been in form but I was starting two games, then I got ill or injured.
“It was not controllable things. Now I feel good.”
While Borini’s enthusiasm for Sunday’s encounter is abundant, he realises the magnitude of the encounter.
Both sides will have eight remaining games to secure their Premier League status after this weekend, yet a seventh successive derby victory for Sunderland would put them four points ahead of relegation rivals Newcastle, with a superior goal difference.
“It’s even more important because it’s so late in the season and there is a gap now between the bottom four and the rest. That makes it more special,” added Borini.
“They have to win it. We’ve won it all the time since I’ve been here.
“If we win we get a good kick in the league and there’s less games left. It would put us in a good position.
“We’re positive because we’re playing well. We’ve had a few positive results, even if we’ve deserved more – like Southampton, Crystal Palace, Man City, West Ham. That’s what we feel at the moment.
“Playing against Newcastle with all that positive background we feel we can get what we deserve.”