Paul Merson says that after only a couple of days in charge, Newcastle looked a ‘completely different side’ against Leicester.

That change wasn’t enough to produce any points, though arguably Newcastle deserved a point from the game against the league leaders.

Paul Merson says that if Steve McClaren had still been in charge then Sunderland would have been a ‘certainty’ to win the derby.

However, despite the improvement under Benitez, Merson still only sees Newcastle getting a point with a prediction of a 1-1 draw.

That would be a far better result for the mackems as it would ensure they stayed a point ahead and on better goal difference.

Paul Merson says he has seen ‘glimpses of promise already’ from Newcastle under Rafa, let’s hope those glimpses turn into goals and points on Sunday.

Paul Merson speaking to Sky Sports:

“It’s a big game anyway  – but now, with one of these two sides definitely going down, it’s a massive, massive game.

“If Rafael Benitez hadn’t moved to St James Park I would have made Sunderland a certainty. Now, it’s a very difficult game to call.

“I watched Newcastle on Monday night and they looked a completely different side.

“Watching them against Bournemouth and then against Leicester, the difference was startling. The organisation was better but also, the players seemed to give a lot more.

“I really did fancy Sunderland for this but Newcastle have shown glimpses of promise already under Benitez.

“I can’t split the two sides; it’s a 1-1 draw for me.”