Steve Bruce looking bemused during the heavy defeat against Newcastle United
It was the low point of the season: a crushing defeat in a derby match with the one team that the Black Cats are always expected to compete against.
The 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Newcastle United left many fans wondering if the team was over matched and if Steve Bruce was unable to get the best out of his players. Bruce seemed at the time to be telling the Mirror the same thing, "We were blown away, and didn't handle the occasion."
In front of the home crowd this time, and on the back of a fairly good run which sees the Black Cats within striking distance of a place in Europe, the team cannot afford another failure. They simply must win against Newcastle.
Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck, and Asamoah Gyan are keys to the Sunderland attack, and they will need to be aggressive from the beginning.
Newcastle, after getting off to a rough start in their return to the Premier League, have risen to eight and are now only five points behind Sunderland. Newcastle will have to get off to a good start. If they score early they may be able to take the crowd out of the game or even turn them on the home side.
Sunderland leads the Premier League with 11 clean sheets, they have done this while losing a number of defensive players to serious injury. They will need to be defensively excellent again this week.
The Black Cats have only lost one game at home this season, so they will be looking for a push from the big home crowd.
For Sunderland to continue to progress this season they will need to beat the teams lower than themselves. A win against Newcastle will not only be a psychological boost, but also one that will push them above lower teams in the league.
After getting bumped from their last cup chance last week, they will need to continue to move up the table to realize their European dreams. No better time than against Newcastle.