Newcastle United - Sunderland Preview: Benitez set for first Tyne-Wear derby

Newcastle United face Sunderland on Sunday afternoon in the second Tyne-Wear derby of the season as both teams battle relegation.

Newcastle United - Sunderland Preview: Benitez set for first Tyne-Wear derby
Newcastle United vs Sunderland Preview: Benitez set for first Tyne-Wear derby (Photo: VAVEL)

It doesn't get any easier for Rafael Benitez as his first game in charge at St. James' Park comes in the form of a Tyne-Wear derby.

It comes at a time in the season as well where it could be win or bust for either team, with the opinion around being the loser will be relegated.

Benitez, 55, hasn't had long to work with his players since taking charge eight days ago, but he will be hoping the fans can come to the rescue and act as the twelfth man on Sunday.

Background

The recent history between these two sides is pretty well documented in the world of sport, Sunderland winning the last six derbies.

It's a dismal record to have in Newcastle United's respect, but with a new and exciting manager in place they are hoping they can bring this run to an end.

Amazingly the Magpies have only scored one goal in those last six derbies, a stat which they will be hoping to change come 1:30pm on Sunday.

The current form of both sides isn't great either, and both will be nervous going into this game.

Sunderland have only won one of their last five games, on the other hand though have only lost one too. That solitary win came against Manchester United in a 2-1 home win, their away form though a lot to be desired.

Newcastle's form isn't great either, having won one of their last five - but that win came five games ago. The four losses they have suffered included some brutal defeats, that sole win though did come at home.

Team News

Chancel Mbemba could be in line for a return to the side after being missing since February due to an ankle injury. This would boost Benitez' defensive options as Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor are both a doubt for the game. Striker Papiss Cisse is back in training which will boost their attacking options, but long term injuries like Paul Dummett and Tim Krul are still sidelined.

Jermain Defoe looks set to to return for Sunderland after recovering from a calf injury. Newcastle have bad memories of Defoe, as he scored the winner in the second derby of the season last year. Lee Cattermole returns to the squad after missing the trip to St Mary's last time out, with Jermain Lens also a possibility.

Where can the game be won and lost?

Benitez: Of course all of the players are important in the derby tomorrow, but Benitez could hold the key to victory here. His vast experience across the world, especially in some big derby's, can prove vital here. The Spaniard isn't frightened to make a decision when he needs to, so he could tactically get Newcastle over the line.

Rafa Benitez at the King Power on Monday | Photo: Getty
Rafa Benitez at the King Power on Monday | Photo: Getty

Defoe: The former-England international gave Newcastle's defence problems last time out, so this time - if he starts - the Magpies defence will  need to be sharp when they meet the Englishman. He's quick, strong and knows how to find the back of the net, so shutting out his chances could help towards a long awaited derby victory.