Ben Cooper gives us the lowdown on today’s visitors and says it is great to see Sunderland in the news, celebrated on TV for having the busiest obesity ward in the country.

Who Manages Them:                   

Gus Poyet, chattering and posturing like a Marmoset that has escaped from captivity and found himself in the Team Valley Fruit and Veg Market, fear and excitement in equal measure.

sunderland in the newsPoyet has done a decent job as Manager since he took over from Il Duce, the Mackems are still in the FA Cup,can look forward to a Wembley trip in the Capital One Cup and are no longer cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League.

He has improved the Mackems defensively, they haven’t scored an own goal for at least a couple of weeks and he has the Black Cats playing in the possession and passing style which served Brighton well in the Championship.

On-field consistency doesn’t seem to be mirrored off the pitch though. Poyet left Brighton under a cloud, sacked for alleged ‘gross misconduct’ and ‘breach of contract’, his employment tribunal claim eventually being scrapped and a ‘settlement’ with Albion reached. The misconduct partly centred around someone having a dump in the opposition’s dressing room before a play-off game v Palace in Brighton a couple of weeks before, an incident which caused the Seagulls some hefty embarrassment.

In the press, Poyet blamed the defeat on the extra motivation the excrement smeared opposition changing room gave Palace but he shouldn’t have the same problem at the Stadium of Light. All the crap is in the home dressing room there.

Who Have They Signed:                              

So far in the January Jumble Sale the Mackems have signed Argentinians Oscar Ustari, Santiago Vergini and Ignacio Scocco. When asked about signing Scocco, Gus Poyet would only say “It’s not done, but we are very close,” which may be Poyet’s way of saying “I’ve never heard of him or seen him play, I’ve been lumbered with him, that nutter Director of Football signed him and then got the sack. I don’t know what is going on, I wish we had Joe Kinnear.”

The Mackems also completed the signing of Brighton midfielder Liam Bridcutton on deadline day for £3million, a former player who has been linked with a reunion since Poyet first sat in the Stadium of Light ejector seat.

It is possible Lee Cattermole will be on his way to Stoke as a result of the Bridcutt signing but earlier this week Poyet criticised Stoke boss Mark Hughes for his pursuit of midfielder Cattermole in a week when the two teams were playing each other. Poyet said “No one from Stoke has made any formal approach or any offer, so for them to be linked with very important players for us before the game is a little bit disappointing.” Poyet must have had his fingers crossed at the time.

The opportunity to sell an absolute liability to one of your main relegation rivals at a key time in the season doesn’t happen very often.

A Special Mention For:                

Sunderland on TV. Congratulations must go to the Wearsiders for getting to the Capital One Cup final, anyone who can beat Chelsea and Manyoo on the way deserves to be there.

It won’t be their first appearance on national TV this season,the public have already seen what the town has to offer in the ITV porkumentary Weight Loss Ward. Featuring the nation’s busiest obesity ward at Sunderland City Hospital, patients received lifestyle coaching and advice on available surgery as well as being nagged into changing their ways. One  31 stone patient featured regularly but Jozy Altidore is still deemed fit enough to play against us today, if he can get through the turnstiles.

The subject of player fitness is something that has blighted the Mackems season. Previous Head Case, er Head Coach, Paulo Di Canio bemoaned player fitness on arrival saying “The fitness levels were pathetic. I had players who told me they had cramps from driving the car.” To be fair to the players, it is quite a long drive from Darras Hall to Sunderland.

How Will They Do This Season:

After the start Sunderland had with their glorious leader, a cup final and staying up will seem like a good season in Monkwearmouth. It could get better, they might win one of the cups, but it could get worse, they may still get relegated. Under Poyet, they look more confident, committed and more organised, but at the same time, they still have to play away at 7 of the top 8 teams, including us.Their last 7 home games, 6 of them against teams in the bottom halfshould prove vital. 15 points from those games and they are safe, anything less and their derby next season will be against Middlesboro.

Are We Going To Win: 

Up front most of what Sunderland do, seems to go through in-form Adam Johnson so it might be worth considering marking him this time around, especially not letting him cut inside onto his left foot.

We may be in the same position ourselves without suspended Remy, peddled Cabaye and the possibly injured Gouffran, our main attacking avenue could be an inconsistent left footer with the talent to take the world by storm. For that to happen, we’ll have to remember something we have forgotten in the last couple of derby games. If you have a more talented football team, you must at least match the opposition for effort, which should allow the talent to flourish.

If the effort we recently put in against Man City and Arsenal is on show today at SJP, then the points will follow.

Betting – Shola First Goal 7/1 – Debuchy To Be Highest Rated Player 7/1 – De Jong To Score Last Goal 11/2

To view all Newcastle v Sunderland betting click HERE (Prices can fluctuate up and down)