Three things Sunderland MUST do to beat Newcastle

Newcastles United's Georginio Wijnaldum scores his side's fifth goal, completing his hat-trick against Norwich
Newcastles United's Georginio Wijnaldum scores his side's fifth goal, completing his hat-trick against Norwich

If they are to begin the crawl out of the doldrums and set a record-breaking sixth successive derby win this weekend, then Sunderland will have to break a losing habit which has plagued them in the opening quarter of the campaign.

But what must Sunderland do to beat the Magpies again? Here are three key factors.

1. Prey upon Newcastle’s defensive vulnerability.

Norwich took the baton from Sunderland last weekend to become the Premier League’s leakiest defence after their 6-2 rout at St James’s Park.

But while Sunderland have been notoriously fragile at the back, the Magpies have been no better, with both sides shipping 19 times in the opening nine games.

Sam Allardyce has understandably made defensive improvement his number one priority and flooded the midfield for his opening game in charge at West Brom.

With Jeremain Lens and Ola Toivonen available again after suspension and injury respectively, plus Jermain Defoe in reserve, Allardyce has a more offensive-minded pack to pick from this week though.

If he opts for a more adventurous game-plan, with home advantage and Sunderland’s derby record behind him, Allardyce could reap rewards.

2. Keep tabs on Georginio Wijnaldum

Despite reports to the contrary, Dick Advocaat wasn’t in the running for a reunion with his former PSV midfielder Wijnaldum during the summer; preferring to go for old boys Lens and Toivonen instead.

After a hefty £15million outlay, Wijnaldum is proving his worth for Newcastle though after his four-goal haul last weekend took his tally for the Magpies to six.

Wijnaldum has that knack of arriving late into the box and getting on the end of crosses, with his prowess in the air already evident at this tender stage of his Newcastle career.

Sunderland’s centre-halves and defensive midfielders need to be constantly aware of the threat posed by the Dutchman.

3. Can Yann M’Vila dictate proceedings?

The French international arrived on Wearside with a reputation as a hot-head, but he has kept his composure immaculately so far, despite Sunderland’s troubles this season.

If he remains ice-cool this weekend, M’Vila - easily Sunderland’s top performer so far - could be a key cog for the hosts.

Both sides have their share of midfield battlers, the likes of Lee Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote.

But M’Vila has the quality to control the tempo of this game and provide a calming presence amidst the chaos.

Follow all the build-up, action and reaction to the derby on our matchday blog