This weekend's forthcoming Tyne-Wear derby sees Newcastle looking to end a miserable run of four straight loses against their bitter north-east rivals Sunderland. Without a win in their last six meetings with the Wearsiders, fans will be desperate for a change in fortunes and emerge with the bragging rights in what has been a largely mundane season for the Toon.
Effect of a new manager
Sunderland, on the other hand, will be looking to achieve their first win under new manager Dick Advocaat, who rather interestingly seeks to become the third successive Black Cats manager to register his maiden win for the club by beating Newcastle.
During their spells in charge of Sunderland, both Paolo Di Canio, and Gus Poyet were installed as manager just one game before an upcoming derby match against Newcastle. Although both men happened to lose their debut matches in charge, each managed to encounter victory over Newcastle in only their second game at the helm.
While skeptics will argue that both their appointments were timed to provide a temporary boost ahead of the important Tyne-Wear derby, there is no doubt that victory in this match helped them to gain immediate favour with the club's supporters.
After losing 1-0 away to West Ham last weekend, the stage is eerily set for Advocaat to mimic his predecessors and appease the fans with an early derby victory, just as Poyet and Di Canio had done before him.
A record of one win in their last 10 Premie League games leaves Sunderland perilously close to the relegation zone, hovering clear by just a single point. Against a struggling Newcastle side bereft of confidence, this is very much a must win tie for the Cats, especially considering their final fixtures of the season are away to Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, so any chance of achieving safety beforehand will be greatly received by the fans.
Newcastle are petering out
By contrast, this game aside, Newcastle have very little left to play for this season. Despite the mathematical possibility that they could still be relegated, in reality being nine points clear at this stage of the season, makes them safe in most people's eyes, and they have been for some while. Even so, without a derby day victory to their name since August 2011, the pressure will be on the Toon to deliver a win, or else risk facing the displeasure of the Geordie faithful.
Struggling to find wins of late, with only two victories in 12, interim manager John Carver has cause for concern if he is to prove his side haven't prematurely written off this season. Still seeking to secure the role on a permanent basis, a win over Sunderland ahead of tricky ties against Champions League hopefuls, Liverpool and Tottenham could provide some much needed momentum to help convince fans he is worthy of the full-time position.
Important to both teams for differing reasons on this occasion, the Tyne-Wear derby will provide all the usual fireworks as well as the opportunity for both Newcastle and Sunderland to propel themselves forward ahead of the crucial business end of the season. Hopefully for the Toon, the curse of a new Sunderland manager in charge will not strike again, and a first derby win since 2011 can bring back the bragging rights to Newcastle.
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