Joey Barton highlights the main difference between Newcastle and Sunderland right now

Steve McClaren

Sunderland and Newcastle are still both in a relegation battle.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club show, Joey Barton has explained the difference between Sunderland and Newcastle at this moment in time, with the Black Cats starting to show some improvements.

Barton said: “That’s the difference between Sunderland and Newcastle at this moment in time. Sam's gone in and made defending his priority, getting clean sheets and staying in games. You looked at Newcastle against Chelsea, and it would be unfair on defending to call that defending. They’ve bought Shelvey - who’s a decent player - and Townsend - who’s a decent player - but they need defenders.”

Despite Sunderland still sitting one point below their North Eastern rivals, many would claim the Black Cats look more likely to stay in the top flight than the Magpies.

They secured a 2-1 win over Manchester United on Saturday, before seeing Newcastle collapse against Chelsea - losing 5-1.

With Sam Allardyce in charge, Sunderland have made defending their priority, and now look like a solid team capped by some exciting attacking players to provide flair in the final third.

Newcastle, on the other hand, also have those attacking players, but they lack the defensive solidity of Sunderland.

Steve McClaren has never been known as a great defensive coach, and his limitations are costing the Magpies every time they take to the field.

Newcastle spent heavily in January to improve their chances of staying in the Premier League, but they failed to improve the areas of their squad that needed work, and the lack of defensive solidity that Sunderland have will likely see the Magpies relegated at the end of this season.

Register for NEWCASTLE UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch