It's strange to think that I forgot the derby was this weekend. I'm not joking either. I've been so focused on the barrage of massive games that seem to raise their head every three days, that the latest encounter at The Sports Direct wasn't even on my radar.
That's not to say it isn't absolutely massive, it really is. No doubt after the Stoke game tonight I'll be fully focused on what promises to be a really interesting affair. With Newcastle cashing in on their prized asset and Sunderland on a relatively excellent run it'll be a really tense game on Saturday. The problem is at the moment with Sunderland, is that you don't know which side will turn up.
We certainly can't afford 20 minute spells akin to those against Cardiff and Southampton, in recent times, respectively. In spite of Cabaye making way for the Mags, they definitely possess the quality to do damage if we don't fully concentrate on the task in hand.
One area of advantage could be our defensive experience. Barring Alonso, the back five have been playing together regularly enough to instil confidence in even the most pessimistic Sunderland supporter. The rejuvenated Bardsley could be the man for the big occasion. He genuinely knows what this game is all about, alongside O'Shea and Brown. These three players could hold the key to victory from a defensive perspective.
Before that though, we have a really good opportunity to get ourselves out of the relegation zone against Stoke. Mark Hughes side have taken just 2 points from the last 27 away from home. Wouldn't it be classic Sunderland to stuff it up tonight? Probably! We can't keep on passing up these opportunities to beat the teams around us. We're well in touch now, but a win in one of those 'must win' games that we drew would have made the table look a lot more rosy. That's just how tight it is.
On tomorrow's podcast we'll be reviewing tonight's game, and looking ahead to the big one on Saturday. We'll be discussion our new recruits and potential acquisitions. Oscar Ustari and Santiago Vergini made debuts at the weekend. No doubt come Thursday, the rumour mill will be rife over Liam Bridcutt and Ever Banega. Then you have the small matter of Nacho Scocco. Having been told on the pod by Ed Malyon that he'd be an excellent signing, it's hard not to wonder about the impact he could have. Even Goldy confided to me in the week that's he's a little bit excited about this one. That's incredibly out of character for that baldy curmudgeon.
Helping us out this week are some belting guests. Unfortunately Crabbers couldn't make it last week. Fortunately, he can this week! Seems appropriate considering this. The ruddy superb Richard Mason from The Northern Echo will join us in the studio.
As always we'll have the opposition perspective. This week it comes from radio broadcaster and member of The Football Ramble team, Pete Donaldson. We've had some cracking guests on the pod in the year or so it's been running. Pete will be high on the list of quality contributors.
So gird your loins, the latest pod will be available Thursday night. You can subscribe on iTunes or get us on Soundcloud. Might be worth listening to Episode 22 as we preview tonight's game. Enjoy!
On the 27th of February, we'll be hosting our second live podcast! It will take place at The Isis, Sunderland. All proceeds will be donated to The Foundation of Light. Guests confirmed so far for the panel are A Love Supreme's Martyn McFadden and scorer of great headers, Gordon Armstrong. Tickets cost just £3 and are available here at the moment. Further details will be announced soon. It's a great chance to come down and get involved with the podcast. Follow us on Twitter for updates @WiseMenSayPod.