Even with some form of faith restored at St. James’ Park after a 6-2 thrashing of Norwich City, Sunderland are still being picked to take all three points when the two sides meet this weekend. We look at some of the reasons why the bookies have Sam Allardyce's men leading the way.
Five in a row for The Mackems
They always say form goes out the window on derby day, and Sunderland have proved this time and again against Newcastle. Despite both sides battling relegation in two of the past three years, Newcastle almost always come in to this heated contest above their neighbours in the Premier League table.
Sunderland have shown that the table can sometimes lie, winning the last five Tyne-Wear derbies, to the groans of Geordies everywhere.
The introduction of Sam Allardyce
The new Black Cats’ boss has tasted the Wear-Tyne derby before, grabbing a point away from home as Newcastle manager in 2007.
Whilst he may consider his style of management as stereotyped by the media, there is no shame in setting up a team to be compact on the field and putting pressure on the opposition. Allardyce will set his stall out early with 11 hungry players who won’t give Newcastle room to breathe.
The former Bolton boss has been in relegation dog-fights before and knows what it takes to win the tight, tense games. A win on Sunday would lift the club with Christmas approaching fast.
Whether Newcastle can overcome five losses in a row to their bitter enemies will depend on how well they adapt to a hostile atmosphere at The Stadium of Light.
The home crowd will not let Newcastle settle and will be willing on every touch, tackle and run from their team.
It is The Magpies’ job to take control of the ball early and keep the fans quiet. If they fail to do this, momentum is bound to swing the way of Sunderland. This will lead to pressure and, inevitably, goals.
Derby day experience
This will be the first derby for a fair share of Newcastle’s players, including Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba, three signings who have become key figures on Tyneside. It is also boss Steve McClaren's first foray into the North East's most famous fixture.
In comparison, Sunderland’s side feature several stalwarts who have played this derby before, with John O’ Shea, Steven Fletcher, Fabio Borini and Lee Cattermole all playing crucial roles in past contests.
With experience key in the cauldron of a local derby, the squad's familiarity with the occasion could be the reason Sunderland take all three points on Sunday.
With both sides sitting in the bottom three and November approaching, results need to come thick and fast.
Sometimes three points can be the difference between Premier League and Championship football when the season draws to a close.