This Sunday will see newly appointed Paolo Di Canio lead his Sunderland side out against the under achieving Newcastle United in the North-East derby.
Di Canio was chosen as Martin O'Neill's successor shortly after their narrow defeat to Manchester United at the Stadium of Light and his election has proven quite a shock to the football world due to his allegedly controversial political views. Questions were also asked of the rapid appointment due to Di Canio's lack of experience as a manager.
However, Di Canio received the opportunity to express his managerial qualities last Saturday at Stamford Bridge. Despite his traditional flamboyant gestures from the bench, he witnessed his side suffer a 2-1 defeat to the champions of Europe.
Although encouragement could be taken from the Black Cats' first half performance, they continued to lack any major offensive spark. So how will they cope facing the Toon Army in this relegation dogfight?
Newcastle spirits will be high as they created a six-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone after a dramatic injury time winner from Papiss Cisse against Fulham.
Another three points for Pardew's side would surely confirm their Premier League status for next season and put their rival's future in extreme danger, making this derby clash more pivotal than ever.
Both teams have struggled to put the ball in the oppositions' net, only scoring five in their last five games in the Premier League. However with the injection of Di Canio's attacking philosophy and the emotion involved in the derby, it is expected that both sides will go all out for the victory.
Reports suggest that Newcastle manager Alan Pardew could be given the selection boost of having danger man Hatem Ben Arfa available for the afternoon kick-off on Sunday.
The French forward was anticipated to miss the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury however, Pardew has been quoted by SkySports as stating: "There could be a cameo as soon as Sunderland. He's got a week's work. If he gets through that work, then he could be involved".
If Sunderland are to gain a famous win at St. James' Park and escape the threat of relegation into the Championship, players such as Stephane Sessegnon, Danny Graham and Adam Johnson must improve their goal scoring form sooner rather than later. Graham, who himself has admitted to being a Newcastle fan, has struggled in particular to make an impression since leaving Swansea in the transfer window.
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