Pardew thriving on rivalry
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew will attempt to plunge Sunderland deeper into relegation trouble on Sunday even though he believes the Barclays Premier League needs both north-east clubs.
The two sides will meet at St James' Park with the stakes as high as they have been for years. Victory for Newcastle - they last lost to their neighbours on home turf in 2000 - would leave the Black Cats facing an uphill task to drag themselves out of trouble with just five games remaining, while an away win would suck the Magpies back into the mix.
Pardew said: "Sometimes, the north-east gets a little bit left to one side. The Manchester clubs get a lot of attention and London clubs do, and it's nice that we have raised the profile of north-east football."
The 51-year-old added: "For me, this fixture is important because I think it's great for the Premier League to have Newcastle and Sunderland in the division - and I hope we both are for next year. We are both fighting for that at the moment."
Pardew and then Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill were involved in a heated exchange during the corresponding fixture last season, but the former West Ham manager will face a different opponent this weekend. He wrote to Paolo Di Canio following his appointment at the Stadium of Light, and is relishing the chance to go head-to-head with him.
Pardew said: "He's a winner and I have got no problem with anything he has done or said since he has been at Sunderland in terms of how he has conducted himself with us.
"He is very professional and that's how he will be on the sideline, I am sure. He knows the spotlight will be on him, as it is on me as Premier League managers, and we have to conduct ourselves in the right manner.
"I have said before that this fixture has a little bit too much of a personal level of intensity. Actually, it's a game of football, that's what it is, and hopefully the better team will win on Sunday. We are in good form. We have got some players coming back who make us a little bit stronger, and I think it's a tough game for Sunderland."
Pardew's derby record to date is impressive - he is unbeaten in four attempts, a run which includes a win and two draws at the Stadium of Light - but he would dearly love to record a first home victory this weekend.
He said: "It's a passionate game played by two clubs who are 15 miles apart or whatever it is, passionate Mackems, passionate Geordies. But we have got 50,000 and that gives us a slight advantage, and I am sure they will want to make themselves heard."