Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has kicked off the mind games early, insisting the pressure is on fellow strugglers Newcastle United over a week out from the Tyne-Wear derby.
Defoe and Co. will travel to Newcastle on March 20, with both teams battling to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Sunderland, who are not in action this weekend, are just outside the drop zone, a point clear of Newcastle after 29 rounds as their manager Steve McClaren fights to save his job amid speculation that Rafael Benitez could replace him before Monday’s trip to leaders Leicester City.
And Defoe has heaped pressure on Newcastle, saying: “It’s the game of the season and they’re desperate for results.
“They’re going to be flying. They’re at home and they’re going to come out and try and win the game. We’ve beaten them in the last six so maybe the pressure’s on them mentally.
“I think we need to go into the game relaxed and just approach it like any other game, don’t think about the derby too much and just approach it like every other game and try and win.
“If we can go there and win the game it will just be amazing for everybody at the football club – not just the players, everyone.
“But at the end of the day you take each game as it comes.
“We need to make sure we prepare as a team because it’s like a cup final. We have to prepare as well as we can, and we’ve done it before.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter that we’ve won the last six. Every game’s different. But we’ve done it before so there’s no reason why we can’t go there and win the game.”
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