Hosts Newcastle head into the game having lost 1-0 away at Leicester City on Monday night, which was Rafael Benitez's first game in charge of the Magpies.
The sacking of Steve McClaren just over a week ago was done with a view to Newcastle mounting a major fight against relegation under Benitez, but the Spaniard got off to a losing start in an improved performance against the league leaders.
On Sunday, Benitez faces a huge challenge against Sunderland, with Newcastle second bottom of the Premier League and in desperate need of a result, in a game which hasn't treated them well of late.
Sunderland have won the last six Tyne-Wear derbies, including a 3-0 win over the Magpies earlier in the season. Sam Allardyce's men are just one place above the relegation zone and level on points with 18th placed Norwich City, making this clash vital in the fight against relegation.
The Black Cats have lost just one of their last five games under former Newcastle boss Allardyce, and will be looking for more derby day delight against the Magpies at St. James' Park - but Mark Lawrenson doesn't see that happening.
Lawrenson has told BBC Sport that he thinks the game will end 1-1, and whilst he was pleased to see an improved Newcastle performance against Leicester on Monday, he has a major concern with Benitez's side; that they simply don't have the right mindset to stay up.
"Sunderland have had the upper hand in this fixture for a few seasons now but I already saw some improvement from Newcastle in Rafa Benitez's first game in charge, Monday's defeat by Leicester," said Lawrenson. "I cannot tip Newcastle to win, though, because I don't think their players have the correct mindset. If they cannot motivate themselves to play when their team is facing the drop, then they will have the same problem with a game against Sunderland," he added.
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