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Derby Day Stress - Rationale vs. Reality

Dreams, how the game may pan out and the stress it puts on fans. Your standard derby thinking, really.

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We're now at the point in the derby build up where we start having stress induced dreams.

If you're not having them yourself then you'll have had someone else tell you about theirs. Not very many of these dreams make much sense (just like the reality) very few times will you dream about a scrappy 1-0 win where someone bundles in the winner after a corner isn't properly cleared.

You're more much more likely to visualise something like I did, when I left the stadium due to being too nervous to continue watching the game and later heard we went 1-0 up after Jozy Altidore scored a penalty. This probably wont be the last one either - I can't wait until Sunday morning and for all the build up to be over.

I've had all the usual hopes and fears going into the game but It'll be very intriguing to see how both sides line up for it. Under Steve McClaren, you'd have expected Newcastle to focus on keeping possession which would have a suited a Sunderland side who would look to take their opportunities on the counter attack. You feel that if Sunderland were to get through the first twenty minutes unscathed then the Newcastle crowd would grow restless and the anxiety of the players would set in.

Due to the managerial change though, a new life has at least temporarily been breathed into Newcastle and they have renewed belief going into Sunday's game. So whilst Newcastle may be still playing a similar style, you sense that the longer the game goes on the more the home crowd will stick with their side, providing they're displaying the required endeavour, rather than supporters getting straight on their players backs.

That's why Sunderland have to try and take the sting out of the game at the earliest opportunity. Sam Allardyce needs his players to unsettle opposition straight away by pressing them and allow them as little time on the ball as possible. A loss in possession in the middle of the pitch would put Newcastle in big trouble as Jan Kirchhoff and Yann M'Vila's keen eye for a pass will allow Defoe, Khazri and Borini to make runs in behind.

It'll all ultimately boil down to which of the two sides can defends best, or least worst is probably more accurate. Both Sunderland and Newcastle have conceded fifty-four goals this season - joint second worst in the league along with fellow strugglers Norwich City.

Our defence has looked tighter since the addition of Lamine Kone and given the way we've played, we're due a clean sheet.The Tyne-Wear derby doesn't obey by the law of averages though, if it did then we wouldn't be chasing our seventh win in a row. Keeping a clean sheet and keeping Newcastle's main attacking threat, Gini Wijnaldum, quiet will go hand in hand. It'll be a busy afternoon for Jan Kirchhoff and we'll need him to continue his impressive start to his Sunderland career as he looks to give further protection to the likely centre half partnership John O'Shea and Lamine Kone.

There's also the issue of cutting off Newcastle's attacking supply. As I mentioned earlier, Sunderland will need to press Newcastle as much as possible and giving Jonjo Shelvey limited time on the ball will be crucial, so that the former Swansea man doesn't have the opportunity to spray the ball around the pitch.

With Kirchhoff and M'Vila being shoe-ins to start, Sam Allardyce may be tempted to recall Lee Cattermole to the starting eleven as his intensity and work off the ball will be a huge asset to Sunderland. As cliche as it may be, Cattermole knows how to play these games and that experience may well see him get the nod ahead of Jack Rodwell.

It feels futile to think of such an occasion so clinically though, as it won't play out in that manner. It will be tense, high octane and probably not very enjoyable. Sure, if we score we'll go mad but then you'll start counting down the minutes and those minutes will feel like hours.

You'll be screaming at every player to allow the ball nowhere near Vito Mannone's goal. You'll pray we can get another goal just to let your heart rate settle a little bit. You'll berate the referee for adding on so much added time. You'll be pacing around the away end, the pub, the house, wherever you may be watching the game. Then, if the final whistle signals victory - you'll melt. You'll feel so emotionally drained that you'll barely have the energy to celebrate. You'll need a drink, not in celebration but because your voice has become so hoarse from trying to roar the lads over the line. It's things like that which create memories though and you'll reflect on it like you never had anything to worry about.

If we lose, we should be able to accept it, given how spoiled we've been lately. With this game having so much more than local pride riding on it, it'll be very hard to just take it on the chin though. Maybe it's still our time. Maybe some of those dreams will come true.