The two rivals face off on Sunday, with Newcastle looking to recover from back-to-back defeats by defeating the Black Cats at St James’ Park.
Sunderland enter the game in bad goalscoring form, with their strikers unable to find the net on a regular basis, whilst Newcastle are in the midst of an injury crisis - with doubts over whether third-choice goalkeeper Jak Alnwick will even make it to the game.
Having suffered a shoulder injury in the League Cup defeat to Spurs midweek, the 21-year-old stopper will reportedly be fit for the derby, but, after conceding eight goals in his last two games, he will be suffering from something of a confidence drought. Freddie Woodman, just 17-years-old, has been touted as a potential replacement for Alnwick should he not recover in time for the game, but regardless of who plays it appears as if the goalkeeper position will be the weakest in the squad.
And it is the goalkeeper who will be targeted by the Sunderland players, in the opinion of former Magpies legend John Anderson. Defender Anderson turned out over 300 times for the Toon in a 10-year spell at St James’ Park, and he believes that the Newcastle back-line should be looking to protect the young ‘keeper as much as possible to prevent Sunderland taking advantage of his inclusion.
Speaking to talkSPORT, the 55-year-old said: “This was always going to be a tough month for us, and it started so well, beating Chelsea – the only team to do so this season.
“But we took a heavy beating at Arsenal last weekend and again at Spurs, and you know what Sunderland are going to do, they are going to target the young keeper early on," he said.
“I think it is down to other people to protect him, although there is only so much you can do.”
Regardless of Sunderland’s treatment of Newcastle’s stand-in stopper, Anderson believes that it will be a close-fought Tyne-Wear derby, with the Black Cats unable to capitalise on Newcastle’s defensive deficiencies due to their poor form in front of goal.
“I think it is going to be tight on Sunday,” he added. “Because Sunderland just can’t score goals, they’ve drawn ten games this season – eight of which were 0-0. They find goals hard to come by.
“I think derby games are so hard to predict. They always seem to throw up the unexpected. But think this weekend’s game will be very tight.”