Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce believes Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby may be the biggest ever played between the rival clubs.
Newcastle United and Sunderland are fighting for Premier League survival, with the latter only outside of the drop zone thanks to their goal difference.
Allardyce said the significance of the derby made it even bigger than usual as the teams look to give their survival hopes a huge boost.
“We are fighting for our survival in the Premier League. We are fighting for everyone at Sunderland Football Club. Not just ourselves but everyone at Sunderland Football Club,” he said.
“If we don’t fight enough and we don’t stay in this league then we lose half the employees here.
“That’s what you get when you get relegated. We are trying to look after everybody who is employed at Sunderland Football Club. That’s how massive the game is.
“They are always huge but this is even bigger. Whoever comes out on top, it will be easier to stay up.
“It is a six-point game and never has there been a six-point game as big as this. We have to win. There couldn’t be a worse year to go down.”
Adding to the derby is the long-running rivalry between Allardyce and Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez.
Both played that down, and the Spaniard said it was of no importance ahead of the clash.
“I know he likes technology and we have been using technology for a while. In terms of those things there could be some similarities, but after we are different,” Benitez said.
“Yes, there is [history], but I don’t think it’s important for the future. I’ve been very happy away for two and half years and I don’t have any problems.”