Sebastian Larsson is desperate to ensure Sunderland’s impressive five-game winning streak in the Wear-Tyne derby continues against Newcastle United on Sunday.
The local rivals have struggled since the start of the Premier League season, winning a combined one match out of a possible 18.
That positive result came for Newcastle last week, when they thrashed Norwich City 6-2 at St James’ Park to move off the foot of the table and leave Sunderland, who have recently appointed Sam Allardyce as manager, as the only remaining winless team.
Allardyce lost at West Brom in his opening match and now faces a hugely important derby against his former club, who he managed for less than a year between 2007 and 2008.
One plus point for the Sunderland boss will be their excellent recent form in derby matches – in addition to winning five in a row, they have not tasted defeat in any of the last seven.
Larsson is one of three players in the current squad to have played in every one of those wins in the current streak – John O’Shea and Adam Johnson being the others – and he is eager to see that run continue after returning to the starting line-up against West Brom for only his third start of the campaign.
“I will be more than happy to keep that record going,” the midfielder told the Sunderland Echo.
“We know what we have done recently, but in these derby games, it is about performing on the day and who wants it the most. Hopefully we can continue our record against them.
“We have done it before, but I am sure they will want revenge. It is a big game – let’s put it that way!
“It was a frustrating time [being out of the team]. That is football. My situation under Dick was very clear, so I knew I wasn’t really going to feature.
“Some managers use some players, some use others but that is part of the game. Every manager chooses whatever team he wants.”
Newcastle boss Steve McClaren comes up against a manager who recently wrote in his autobiography that he should have got the England job when it went to the former Middlesbrough man in 2006.
McClaren, though, paid tribute to Allardyce’s quality, saying the ability of managers throughout the table highlighted the overall quality of the Premier League.
“Whatever manager it is, it is the Premier League, the biggest league in the world,” he said.
“You are pitting yourself against some of the biggest managers in the world and in Europe – Sam is one of them.
“He has had an excellent career. He has great experience in the Premier League and every club he goes to, he does a very good job. He will do that at Sunderland.”
Sunderland have doubts over Adam Matthews (foot) and Fabio Borini (knock), who will undergo a late fitness test. Outside of their long-term absentees such as Tim Krul (knee), Newcastle have no fresh injury worries after Kevin Mbabu and Rolando Aarons returned to training.
Key Opta stats:
– Newcastle have managed to score just one goal in their last 537 minutes of football against Sunderland.
– Sunderland have won eight Premier League games against Newcastle – versus no other side have they won more often (also eight wins v Bolton and Everton).
– Sam Allardyce has never lost his opening Premier League home game in charge of a club (W3 D1).
– Georginio Wijnaldum scored as many goals in his last Premier League appearance (4) as Sunderland have in their last six Premier League games combined (4).
– Wijnaldum has only attempted 12 shots (inc. blocked) in the Premier League this season, but has scored with half of these (6).
– These two sides have allowed the most shots on target by opponents this season in the Premier League – Newcastle (55), Sunderland (53).