1. CHANNEL THE OPPORTUNITY
What is the one thing that you need when you’ve gone eight games without a win, you’ve been mocked in a national newspaper and supporters’ anger is beginning to rise? The answer is 90 minutes of football that could completely turn the tide of this dreadful season.
That is what Poyet has got on Sunday. The pitiful displays at Swansea, West Brom and Crystal Palace might not be forgotten if derby bragging rights are secured, but they might just be forgiven. Victory would give Sunderland that precious commodity of momentum like winning no other game would. Whatever Poyet might think privately, this is more than just three points at stake: it is, potentially, Sunderland’s entire season.
2. GO ON THE OFFENSIVE
The Black Cats are facing a team shorn of its defensive talisman so they need to try and find a way to put the pressure on Newcastle. Last season they did that by playing inbetween the lines, with the Magpies unable to track the runs of Stephane Sessegnon and ultimately paying the price.
Jozy Altidore could spearhead a three-man attack, doing the hard-work while allowing Steven Fletcher to drift into the spaces that might hurt Newcastle’s makeshift defence.
3. FREE EMANUELE GIACCHERINI
The biggest disappointment on Saturday was the performance of the Italy forward, who had looked like a man transformed by the sacking of Paolo Di Canio. A slight shift in system seemed to take some of the sting out of his game. Why not shape a strategy around Sunderland’s best player?
4. TAKE CONTROL OF THE AGENDA AGAIN
The Phil Bardsley recall could have worked for Poyet but as it is, his rusty performance has become an emblem of Sunderland’s supporters frustrations with players who they believe have constantly failed them. Poyet should have encouraged a full and frank apology from Bardsley, but it’s too late now.
It’s not too late for Sunderland to change the message this week. The accusation that they are gutless and don’t care is simply not true, but they have to tell us why.
Platitudes and burying heads in the sand won’t soften stances towards this squad; honesty and forthright admissions just might.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID OF IT
One of the few things that Paolo Di Canio got absolutely right at Sunderland was to confront the derby, which was a different approach from some of his predecessors.
Infamously Steve Bruce once stopped his players from talking in the run-up to one of the derby games – the home fixture in 2010/11 – in an effort to relieve the pressure. It didn’t work; in fact it made Sunderland’s players look scared and perhaps that fear factor translated to the match as the Black Cats laboured to a 1-1 draw that was only salvaged by an injury-time leveller.
Sunderland have done little to encourage arrogance or even confidence but players and supporters will take their lead from the top. Poyet must be as strident as Di Canio was.
1. STAY BOLD
It feels a bit like Pardew has got his managerial mojo back since Goodison Park. First there was the boldness of dropping Hatem Ben Arfa at Cardiff, then there was the attempt to go back on the front foot on Sky’s Goals on Sunday and then there was Saturday’s excellent performance against Liverpool. Just like in the season where Newcastle finished fifth, his gambles are paying off and his players are paying him back.
To stay on the front foot on Saturday, Newcastle need their manager to do the same thing. Will he dare hand Ben Arfa such a pivotal role in an away game as he did against Liverpool? The mercurial forward loves these occasions and it would send quite a message if he did.
Might we see Paul Dummett too? The left-back is on top of the world but it would be a big statement if Pardew maneouvered him into his starting XI somewhere.
One way or another, Pardew is stronger when he’s bolder. Newcastle are heading to Sunderland with a bit of their swagger back.
2. REMIND THEM WHAT IT FELT LIKE LAST TIME
Newcastle's January arrivals were caught by surprise last season. Sunderland had the intensity while United fell away under pressure. Hopefully they will not need to be reminded of it but a few recollections of the atmosphere around the city might focus minds.
3. GO ON THE ATTACK
Sunderland's poor start is something to be exploited by Newcastle. A good start – like the one they enjoyed in the first derby last season – could make the pressure unbearable on the Black Cats’ smarting players. They can apply pressure with set pieces and corners, although Newcastle’s record on them isn’t exactly scintillating.
4. ENSURE CHEICK TIOTE LEADS FROM THE MIDDLE
Tiote’s form in the last three games has hinted at a return to the heights that made him a wanted man.
He needs to maintain his discipline and drive Newcastle on like he did in their last two games – and be reminded of his captain’s responsibilities to stay out of trouble.
5. TELL STEVEN TAYLOR TO COOL IT
Is it brilliant that Taylor is back or a bad omen? No player’s presence will rile Sunderland’s supporters more than his – and no one on the pitch on Sunday will know more about the local importance of winning the game.
On his day Taylor is England-class and he usually comes back very strongly from injuries, so Newcastle fans should have few worries on that score.
However, he plays on emotion and skirts on the edge of the rules sometimes.
Pardew needs to remind him the effect adrenaline had on him at Manchester City – and probably keep him out of the pages of newspapers, mores the pity.