Sunderland take on Middlesbrough in the Premier League this weekend.

With Newcastle no longer in the Premier League, Sunderland and Middlesbrough are left to fight it out to be the pride of the North East.

The two will go at it for the first time in the Premier League since 2009, with the sides also meeting three times in cup competitions since then.

Sunderland’s biggest rival has always been and always will be Newcastle United, but with their absence, does that make the game with Aitor Karanka’s team even bigger?

For Middlesbrough, Sunderland are their closest rivals geographically. They too have a rivalry with Newcastle, but nothing like the one that the Black Cats share with the Magpies.

To North East football, Middlesbrough are like that loud, distant cousin you always forget about but always makes a big noise when they turn up.

 

While Sunderland have gone through turbulent times and battled with Newcastle for Premier League survival, Middlesbrough have quietly gone about their business in the Championship, and now they are ready to roar again in the top flight.

When it comes to bragging rights, the red and whites will always look at what the black and whites are doing, whereas the Boro are often forgotten or ignored. 

This season, David Moyes’ side cannot ignore their Teeside rivals. Middlesbrough have become a force under Karanka, and are now ready to make their mark on the Premier League stage. The closest thing to a derby that Boro have come to in the past three years is their battles with Leeds United, but they know the teams they really want to beat are Sunderland and Newcastle.

While Middlesbrough have been trying to climb out of the Championship, Wearside has seen a spell of dominance over Tyneside, cementing their place at the top of the North East when Newcastle fell through the trapdoor. 

The Stadium of Light will host one derby this year, but it will be a different test that they have not faced in four years. It could be a test that they see as just another game, but that is not the case for the rivals down the A19.

Middlesbrough, like a caged animal, have had to wait seven years for another chance to become the force of North East football, and Sunday presents their first opportunity to take top spot back.

This is the derby for Teesside, which could give them the edge on Wearside.

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