In a rivalry that stretches over 115 years and 150 matches, the fact that the Black and Whites hold a narrow four-game advantage over the Red and Whites says everything you need to know about the difficulty in predicting the outcome in the Tyne-Wear derby over the years.
Regardless of division, form or league position, games between the north east’s old foes are largely close-fought affairs, punctuated by the odd – and unexpected – convincing win every few seasons.
Last season, a relegation threatened Sunderland side shocked their rivals with a 3-0 win at St James’ Park, while almost three years to the day on Sunday, Newcastle recorded a famous 5-1 victory on home soil. Four years before that, the Magpies won 4-1 at the Stadium of Light.
In each of the five seasons since that result, however, at least one of their fixtures has ended 1-1.
So does Sunday’s derby hold in store another scrappy stalemate (the draw is 23/10), or will it be another one-sided drubbing to add to the record books?
The match odds suggest the former, with Newcastle narrow favourites at 6/4 with Gus Poyet’s men priced at 7/4, but the form book suggests the latter. In truth, only the most optimistic of Sunderland fans will be going into this game with a genuine hope for anything other than avoiding defeat.
Swansea’s fourth goal last weekend was the 20th Sunderland’s leaky defence have conceded this season, while a return of just five at the other end demonstrates that the Uruguayan boss is dealing with the sort of double combo that no manager wants to have to face.
And while Newcastle have hardly enjoyed a flawless season so far, sat in midtable with as many defeats as wins, in comparison to their rivals there is no suggestion that they’ll be in a dogfight this season. Their 2-2 home draw with Liverpool was arguably their best performance of the season, considering they were down to ten men for much of the game, and was the fifth consecutive league game where they’d managed to find the net on two occasions.
The visitors are 7/5 to score over 1.5 goals again on Sunday, although their troubles in defence, with doubts remaining over the fitness Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor and only two clean sheets all season, could see both sides troubling the net at 3/4.
Sunderland fans can’t even count recent history on their side when searching for a badly-needed sign of optimism. In addition to picking up only one point in eight games all season, the Wearsiders have a torrid recent home record against their nearest and dearest, with only one derby victory recorded at the Stadium of Light since it was built in 1997.
Not that Roker Park fared much better in recent times – the last home win before Roy Keane’s victory in 2008 was a 1-0 win in 1980.
Unless Poyet can repeat the theatrics and one-off magic of his eccentric predecessor, Paulo Di Canio, and inspire a performance of real quality from players who have so far shown themselves incapable of doing so, all signs point to another victory on the banks of the Wear for the Magpies, at 6/4, a damaging result that would cement Sunderland’s place as near-certainties for relegation this season, at 4/9.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.