Julio Arca is a man who is much-loved across two-thirds of the North East, having played all of his English professional football in the region for both Sunderland and Middlesbrough, making over 300 appearances for the two sides who meet this weekend. I got the opportunity to speak to the Argentinian ahead of this weekends derby to get his thoughts on the fixture, his experiences of the clash and his hopes for Sunderland’s season.
RR: Hi Julio, thanks for speaking to Roker Report! Firstly, who do you see as either side’s danger men this Sunday, and why?
JA: Hi Chris, no problem! I think the key player for Sunderland, as always, is going to be Jermain Defoe. He can grab a goal out of nothing and these derbies can often be settled by the one goal. The same applies for Boro and their new star striker Alvaro Negredo who will be a handful for the Sunderland defence.
RR: How do you feel Sunderland’s pre-season has gone?
JA: I think pre-season has been good, the change of manager from Big Sam to David Moyes has obviously complicated things for the club and players, but I'm sure Moyes will get the club in the right direction sooner rather than later.
RR: Of course, you’ve played for both sides in the 'derby', how did each side differ in their preparations for a game like this?
JA: It doesn’t matter who you are playing for up in the North-East, preparation always has to be very good for every game. However, winning a derby means a lot to the fans so you always see the squad giving it that extra ten percent in training in the days leading up to the match.
RR: Back in 2007 you scored for Boro against Sunderland, how did that feel?
JA: It was certainly a bizarre feeling to score against my old side, especially one who had treat me so well. I knew it could happen before the game but I also knew that I had to do the best to help my team win in that occasion. I didn't celebrate the goal to show respect to the Sunderland fans because they deserved that respect after how well they looked after me in my time at the club. We have a special relationship.
RR: How do you feel David Moyes will do at Sunderland and where do you expect the Black Cats to finish this year?
JA: David Moyes is an experienced manager in the Premier League, and I hope he can get some stability in the club, just as he did during his time at Everton. If things go well and Moyes can sign a few more players then I expect Sunderland to finish mid-table this year.
RR: Many Sunderland fans are playing down this derby compared to the Tyne-Wear derby on social media, do you feel that this derby is just as special having played for both sides?
JA: A derby is a derby and it is always important to win them, not matter if it is against Newcastle or Boro. Both sides will approach the game like a cup-final and I’m sure the fans will back the side on Sunday as this will be the only derby they will see this season!
RR: Finally Julio, what is your score prediction for Sunday’s game?
JA: Both sides performed well in their opening games of the season and deserved more than what they ended up having. Looking at the two teams I think I will sit on the fence with an entertaining 2-2 draw.
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