Football Expert & Columnist
Jamie Redknapp reckons Newcastle will edge Tyne-Wear derby with Sunderland
Jamie Redknapp says Paolo Di Canio must boost belief at Sunderland, but tips Newcastle to win the derby.
Last Updated: 13/04/13 11:34am
Time will tell whether the Black Cats' decision to replace Martin O'Neill with Paolo Di Canio last week was an inspired move or a crazy one but one thing's for sure, if they beat their rivals this weekend the Italian will be a hero in the eyes of the Sunderland fans.
However, it was a massive £60m gamble by the owner, Ellis Short, to replace O'Neill with a manager who only has experience of working in League One and Two. It was an incredible decision and a big risk but he obviously felt things weren't going the way he wanted and decided to act.
The problem for Di Canio is he has very little time to start getting results with a team that hasn't won since January 19 - and he doesn't even have the option of bringing any players in.
He suggested after his first game in charge, when Chelsea came from behind to win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, that his players may lack fitness but, having been in a relegation battle myself with Southampton, I'd say the biggest problem at this stage of the season for a struggling team is confidence.
With their top goal-scorer Steven Fletcher missing for the rest of the campaign - as well as their captain Lee Cattermole - Sunderland aren't going to be beating teams 2-0 or 3-0 so they need to find a way to grind results out. Di Canio will have to motivate the players and try to change their mind-set - but O'Neill was always a motivator so I'm not sure whether Di Canio will have more success than him in that area.
The quickest way Sunderland can boost their confidence, though, is by getting three points on the board this weekend, but that is going to be no easy task at St James' Park.
Di Canio couldn't have faced two tougher games to start his reign with - an away trip to Chelsea before going to a Newcastle side regaining confidence after Papiss Cisse's last-gasp winner against Fulham is a huge challenge for them.
The win over Fulham has moved the Magpies clear of the drop zone and they know they just need one win from their remaining games and they can start thinking about next season, so the pressure is really on the visitors on Sunday.
Newcastle's transformation from a side which narrowly missed out on the Champions League last season to one trying to avoid relegation this year isn't good enough - in fact, it's appalling, especially given the fortune they've spent on players - but they can at least look to move on from this campaign with three points from one of their remaining games.
With the amount of talent they have in their side I think that win could come this weekend. Player-for-player Newcastle have a better team than Sunderland and crucially have the power of Moussa Sissoko in central midfield.
Sunderland's midfield features decent players but they don't have the strength to cope with the likes of Sissoko and Yohan Cabaye. Newcastle could overrun them in that area and, with Cisse up top - the best striker on the pitch - I think they have the potential match-winner.
I'm going for a 2-1 win for Newcastle.