Five Key Steps To Sunderland Winning The Derby

Shaun Botterill - Getty Images

With Sunday drawing ever closer, we take a look at what Sunderland might be able to do in order to grab three points against Newcastle United.

5. Make Set Pieces Count

Sunderland have struggled in recent years from poor delivery from set pieces. However, with O'Neill in charge, it has become clear that corners and free kicks are a big part of our attacking arsenal. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, Seb Larsson's delivery really hasn't been up to scratch.

In Newcastle's last Premier League encounter, they really struggled to defend corners against Manchester United, and looked extremely shaky in those situations. A good ball in, and the defence were all over the place, arguing with each other and the goalkeeper when the ball was hitting the net.

With the height of Cuellar and the danger that Fletcher poses, the Black Cats need good delivery, and will hope that a decent ball in could cause similar carnage, meaning that Larsson really has to up his game from recent weeks.

Plus, we all remember winning at the Stadium of Light thanks to an incredible free kick, and with the afore-mentioned Larsson in the team, as well as Craig 'thunderbolt' Gardner, here's hoping that the Lads have been staying behind after training for extra free kick practice this week.

4. Keep Tight To Hatem Ben Arfa

While for parts of last season, it seemed that all of Newcastle's best play was channeled through combative midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa has caused teams numerous problems this term.

It goes without saying that having Lee Cattermole in the midfield to try and nullify his threat would have been essential, however, that isn't possible for us on Sunday.

Will O'Neill ask Jack Colback to man mark the marauding Frenchman? Could we see Craig Gardner, who looks like being dropped at right back in favour of the returning Phil Bardsley, be asked to play a more defensive role in the centre of the park?

Only the manager will know the answer to these questions, but to allow Ben Arfa time and space in the area between our defence and midfield could prove to be suicidal, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see someone in red and white stripes be asked to keep a keen eye on him all game.

3. Get The Ball Out Wide

Without wanting to sound like I'm being a bit simple, this is surely imperative on Sunday. The way that this season's Sunderland plays means that the focus of our attacks should be close to the touchlines anyway.

Adam Johnson will be desperate to make an impact after failing to find his way into the England team, and struggling for form in the short time he's been at the Stadium of Light. It's anyone's guess what will be happening on the other wing, as James McClean picked up a knock before the international break, and has been more than disappointing recently in the red and white stripes. This could be Seb Larsson's chance on the right wing, with Adam Johnson going out to the left, we may see Danny Rose pushed further up the park, with Jack Colback filling in at left back, or Stephane Sessegnon could even fill the gap, with Craig Gardner playing in a more advanced role than usual in midfield.

The only person who knows what will happen on Sunday is Martin O'Neill, but he has a sizeable decision to make. If Steven Fletcher is going to receive the kind of service that we already knows he thrives on, getting the ball wide is imperative. Who will be receiving the ball when it gets there is up to the manager, and the right choices will certainly enhance of chances of coming away with three points.

2. Don't Get Drawn Into Tiote

Newcastle United love a player who brings a 'theatrical' side to his game. Just look at Steven Taylor for example. Handball on the line? Pretend to have a fit. Running into the area? Go on, dive, go for it.

Cheik Tiote is another player who has a less than squeaky clean image when it comes to fabricating what has happened on the field of play. Unfortunately, he also seems to have the ability to wind players up, and that's quite a skill to have in what is sure to be yet another heated encounter on Sunday.

Sunderland need to remember this. He'll be looking for any excuse to go running to the referee to tell on our players, and will more than likely be hitting the deck in ways which Tom Daley would be proud on more than one occasion. You can be sure that Alan Pardew is fully aware of Tiote's qualities, and will openly encourage his central midfielder to make the most of any occasion that presents itself to him.

On the other bench, Martin O'Neill needs to make sure that his Sunderland players don't get sucked into the trap, and even in the pressure-cooker atmosphere that the derby creates, keep their heads when he is doing all he can to make them lose it.

1. Keep Shola Ameobi Out Of The Game

Kidnap him. Stage a powercut at his house so his alarm doesn't go off. Put sugar in his petrol tank. Get the driver to lock him on the bus. Hide his boots. Get one of those Men In Black flashystick things so that he forgets he's a footballer. Tamper with Pardew's teamsheet so Sammy is playing instead. Lock him in the changing room with Lee Cattermole. Lock him in any bloody changing room. Superglue his laces together.

And if all of that fails, please, please, just mark him out of the game.

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