Sunday afternoon sees one of the most hotly-anticipated Tyne-Wear derby clashes in years, with not only the usual bragging rights at stake, but three huge points up for grabs in this year’s relegation fight.
Newcastle have followed Sunderland’s lead by appointing a new manager just two games before the derby, a strategy which was worked wonders for current Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce, as well as his predecessors Dick Advocaat, Gus Poyet and Paolo Di Canio.
Ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez was appointed Newcastle manager on Friday, and will take charge of his second game as Magpies boss against Sunderland, which will be his first at St. James’ Park.
A lot has been made of the touchline feuds between Allardyce and Benitez over the years, but how do their head-to-head records compare?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rafa does hold an edge over Big Sam.
The pair have come up against each other on 12 occasions. Benitez’s side have taken the points seven times, Allardyce has come out on top three times and the spoils have been shared twice.
In their first encounter way back in 2004, Allardyce’s Bolton side triumphed against Benitez’s Liverpool in a 1-0 win at (what was then known as) the Reebok Stadium.
Allardyce’s next victory over Benitez came again at the Reebok in 2006, with Bolton running out 2-0 winners over Liverpool.
He had to wait until New Year’s Day 2012 for his next win over the Spaniard, as his West Ham side won 3-1 against Chelsea, with Benitez then at the helm on an interim basis. However, those were the only three occasions in which Allardyce has triumphed.
Have the pair ever faced off at St. James' Park?
Indeed they have, but only once. Their only ever encounter thus far at St. James’ Park ended in a win for Benitez, with Rafa’s Liverpool side beating Allardyce’s Newcastle 3-0 thanks to goals from Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel. The game proved to be one of Big Sam’s final games in charge on Tyneside, with Newcastle fans voicing their conerns with Allardyce's style of play.
Both Allardyce and Benitez will be desperate for wins in this weekend’s huge game, and not just for the points – it’s safe to say there will be a fair few eyes on the touchline on Sunday afternoon to see which of these two rivals gets one over the other.
It’s certainly building up to be on heck of a showdown!