This Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby is one of the most important for years as both teams scrap it out at the bottom of the Premier League table hoping to avoid the dreaded drop. Luke Moore takes a look...
"Sunderland's away record defensively has been truly awful this season, they've conceded 38 goals on the road, and Benitez's record against Allardyce is a good one."
Newcastle v Sunderland
Sunday March 20, 13:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
This has been another season of chaos for Newcastle, and they currently sit in serious danger of relegation to the Championship after picking up just 24 points from 29 games. This could be about to change however, as they now have a manager of genuine quality at the helm in the shape of Champions League-winning Rafa Benitez.
The performance away to table-toppers Leicester last week was nothing to be ashamed of at all and it was actually pretty encouraging to see how quickly the Magpies picked up and took on board Benitez's ideas, just a few days after he took the job. They looked more compact, more organised and the more equipped to stay up than they have for a long while.
Next up is the biggest game of their season, without question, and Sunday's result will go a long way to determining the division the Toon ply their trade in next season.
The revolution under safe-pair-of-hands Sam Allardyce hasn't quite materialised at Sunderland as yet, and it's clear the club are running out of time. They have found it difficult to stop conceding goals, and are currently in a terrible run of one win in eight at a key time in the season.
That said, they do have something Newcastle do not - a proven Premier League striker. Jermain Defoe has 14 goals for Sunderland already this season, and if he can keep firing and bag a few more, that might be enough to keep them dining at English football's top table.
Local boy Duncan Watmore is still missing with an ankle injury.
Newcastle are the favourites going into this game, currently trading at 2.226/5, with the away side out at 3.7511/4. That price on Sunderland does look good at first glance, especially when one takes into account the fact that the Black Cats have won the last six Tyne-Wear derbies.
However, Sunderland's away record defensively has been truly awful this season, they've conceded 38 goals on the road, and Benitez's record against Allardyce is a good one. I also think the atmosphere will be positive at St James's Park for the first time in an age, and that could really provide the Newcastle players with the lift they need.
I'm backing Benitez to get one over on his old adversary, and will be picking a home win.
The Draw currently trades at 3.45.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
This is a difficult market to pick for a number of reasons.
It's a derby, so it could well be chaotic, both sides have been fairly hapless at defending their own goal, and both sets of strikers can miss hatfuls of chances on their day. It's easy to see this being a pulsating, end-to-end affair with loads of goals, but it's equally possible that it could be nip-and-tuck and decided by a solitary winner. For that reason, I'll be leaving well alone.
Overs currently trades at 2.166/5, with Unders at 1.834/5. Opta tell us that the average amount of goals between these two sides is 2.56, so just over the threshold.
Shown a Card
This is a nice market because we can look at stats and see who the most booked players are. Now, our old friend Jack Colback is going to be right in the thick of things in that midfield, playing against his old club, and he has nine yellow cards under his belt this season. Only Norwich's Alex Tettey has picked up more.
He is well worth a back to be shown a card at any time at 2.56/4 or better.
Back Newcastle to win at 2.226/5
Back Jack Colback to be shown a card at 2.56/4 or better