Belfast Telegraph

Simpson relishing Sunderland clash

Newcastle full-back Danny Simpson has prescribed a dose of derby day glory as the perfect antidote to their Europa League heartache.

The 26-year-old and his team-mates came agonisingly close to clawing their way past Benfica and into the semi-finals on Thursday evening before a last-gasp Eduardo Salvio goal halted their late charge.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's clash with Sunderland, Simpson said: "That's just going to give us a big lift for Sunday, in all honesty. We have got a couple of days to recover now, but our performance and the fans and the energy and the effort we put in, it's just got us ready."

He added: "We are champing at the bit for Sunday now. They are probably the best games I have been involved in. It just means so much to everyone. You can feel it. They are very special and I have been fortunate to have won a couple and drawn a couple.

"We have had a good week - we beat Fulham and had a good performance on Thursday night and were unfortunate not to go through. We have set ourselves up nicely for Sunday now to give it a right go and I am sure the fans will be up for it as well."

Meanwhile, Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet admits he cannot believe Sunderland will head into Sunday's derby facing a desperate fight against relegation.

The 24-year-old Belgium international has been arguably the Black Cats' stand-out player during a difficult campaign, but even his heroics have not been able to prevent the club from slipping into the thick of the scrap for top-flight survival.

Defeat at St James' Park would leave Paolo di Canio's men in deep trouble with just five games in which to save themselves, and when Mignolet looks around the dressing room, he finds that situation difficult to fathom.

Asked if he was surprised at their league position, he said: "Yes, if you see the individual qualities of every single player.

"Obviously, we didn't hope to be where we are now. With the qualities we have, we shouldn't be there."


From Belfast Telegraph