Advocaat: Derby like a cup final
Dick Advocaat has ordered his Sunderland players to treat Sunday's derby showdown with Newcastle as a cup final.
However, the 67-year-old Dutchman is placing no greater importance on Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with the Magpies at the Stadium of Light than any of the other seven remaining games of a campaign which is balanced on a knife-edge.
Head coach Advocaat, whose first game at the helm ended in a heart-breaking 1-0 defeat at West Ham, said: "At the beginning when I arrived, I talked to them about nine finals, and that's the way it is.
"The second final is Newcastle. I think we have to think about it in that way. It's a very important game to show them what we can do, and if we can get the result we want, it will give them a lift again.
"Last week, I was a little bit disappointed that we conceded a goal in the last minute against West Ham because one point would have been a good result there.
"The players understand the importance of this game, and not only this game, but every game that will come in the next weeks."
That point would have doubled Sunderland's slim advantage over 18th-placed Burnley, who headed into the weekend with the Black Cats firmly in their sights.
It will be Advocaat's first experience of this particular local rivalry, but by no means his first derby after travelling the world during his successful career to date.
Indeed, having experienced the white heat of the Old Firm hostilities in Scotland during his spell as Rangers boss, he knows exactly what to expect, and what a weapon home advantage can be.
He said: "I know from the Rangers fans how important it is to get them behind you. They can be a really key factor in this game.
"If they stand straight from the beginning behind our club, then it will give the players a lift, there's no doubt about that."
Advocaat will welcome midfield enforcer Lee Cattermole back from suspension - and has confirmed that he will start - although he will be without defender Wes Brown as he faces up to a month on the sidelines with a knee injury.
Meanwhile, John Carver says he will never forget the sight of Paolo di Canio sliding across the St James' Park turf on his knees in celebration.
Di Canio's joyous celebration of Adam Johnson's goal in a remarkable 3-0 derby victory on Tyneside for Sunderland in April 2013, remains an iconic image for Black Cats' fans long after the controversial Italian's brief, if eventful, reign came to an end.
But it did not go down well in the home dug-out, particularly with Geordie Carver, then Alan Pardew's assistant.
He said: "When Paolo was sliding on his knees, I've never been so agitated in my life. I wanted to take the law into my own hands that day because of what I was watching our in our stadium.
"It was very, very difficult to take, but you have to take it on the chin and accept it. From that day, that is something that really motivates and drives me to try to get the right result.
"This is your own stadium, this is your home and it was embarrassing. It was an embarrassing performance and I was embarrassed to be part of that.
"I was embarrassed about the way we played that day. Him doing that p****d me off, I've got to be honest, but I was embarrassed about the way we played."
Sunday will be a big day for Magpies midfielder Jack Colback, who will return to his former club for the first time since he helped them to three of those four derby victories, although Carver has no qualms about his ability to handle the occasion.
He said: "I'll be having a chat with him about how he deals with the situation, but he's a big enough character and personality to deal with the whole thing.
"For him to come here and score against us as a Newcastle fan, he dealt with that situation, and he's signed for us and dealt with that situation. I'm sure he'll deal with the occasion as long as he plays the game, not the occasion."
Newcastle defender Massadio Haidara will miss the trip and will not play again this season after undergoing surgery.
The full-back has undergone a procedure to remove a cyst from the knee which has forced him to sit out the last two games and will join fellow defenders Steven Taylor (Achilles), Paul Dummett (knee) and midfielders Cheick Tiote (also knee) and Siem de Jong (collapsed lung) on the sidelines.
Midfielder Mehdi Abeid could be involved after recovering from a thigh problem, but winger Rolando Aarons (hamstring) will not be risked and defender Fabricio Coloccini and striker Papiss Cisse continue their respective suspensions.