The battle to become the North-East’s highest-placed club each year is always an intriguing one, and with just 12 miles separating the two cities, competition across Tyne and Wear is never far from the surface.
But with both teams struggling in the Premier League last season, priorities shifted, and the attentions of the Magpies and the Black Cats turned to retaining their top-flight status.
With the new season just weeks away, however, the two are set to go head-to-head once more, and we take a detailed look at how the rivalry stands ahead of the 2013-14 campaign.
Premier League Superiority
There wasn’t much to shout about for Newcastle United and Sunderland last term, with both clubs flirting dangerously with relegation to the Championship in the final few weeks.
But there was still the small matter of which team finished highest in the final Premier League table, and on that front, it was Newcastle who had their noses in front on the last day of the campaign.
The achievement hardly sparked much celebration, with the Magpies finishing 16th—one place and just two points ahead of Sunderland just outside the drop zone.
Both sets of fans will be hoping for much better campaigns this time around, and both will be hoping the tussle for Premier League superiority will take place in the top half of the table rather than the bottom.
Winners: Newcastle United
Back in 2010-11, it was Sunderland who finished highest in the league table, but the North-East’s bragging rights belonged firmly to Newcastle, who crushed their neighbours 5-1 during a topsy-turvy campaign.
By the same token, though, it was United who finished ahead of their rivals at the end of last term, the kudos belong with the Black Cats after the most recent Tyne-Wear derby in April.
With the first encounter of last term ending all square at the Stadium of Light, the return fixture saw the red and whites turn in their best performance of the season.
A largely stunned St. James’ Park watched on in horror as the Wearsiders strolled to a 3-0 victory and their biggest win over their bitter rivals in over 34 years.
In terms of adding to their squads ahead of the new campaign, Newcastle United and Sunderland are leagues apart.
At the Stadium of Light, no fewer than nine new faces have arrived as manager Paolo Di Canio sets about overhauling his playing staff following their brush with disaster last season.
In stark contrast, Alan Pardew is yet to add a single senior signing to the Magpies’ roster, with 16-year-old prospect Olivier Kemen the only incoming so far.
Whether Di Canio’s scattergun approach and United’s seemingly cautious methods work remains to be seen, but in terms of adding depth and breathing new life into their squads, there is only one winner.
With so many new players arriving at Sunderland this summer, it’s hard to assess how their squad will shape up for the new campaign, and at this moment in time, that works in Newcastle’s favour.
When fully fit and available, the Magpies’ first-choice starting XI is a match for anyone, but that luxury sorely evaded Pardew last term as his side competed on four fronts.
There were obvious holes in both squads last term, with Sunderland’s inability to score goals a grave concern at the Stadium of Light, as was United’s obvious frailty at the back.
On paper, the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini, Jozy Altidore and Vito Mannone look like astute signings by Di Canio, but in terms of proven Premier League quality, the Magpies have the edge.
Winners: Newcastle United
It was only a year ago that Newcastle United’s boss was celebrating winning two Manager of the Year awards after guiding his team to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League.
But Pardew’s stock fell dramatically in the eyes of some of the club’s supporters last term, and the 51-year-old has much work to do if he is to restore their trust in him.
At Sunderland, Di Canio’s immediate popularity soared following their 3-0 derby win at St. James’ Park, but his ability to manage in the Premier League will be laid bare next season after a hectic summer transfer window.
After only seven games in charge on Wearside, the Italian’s impact will only truly be reflected once the new campaign is well underway, and in the meantime that hands Pardew the slimmest of advantages.
WINNERS: Newcastle United
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