Gary Neville analyses struggling Sunderland and rivals Newcastle ahead of their meeting on Super Sunday this weekend.
A BIG TASK FOR POYET
Sunderland are in a perilous situation. One point from eight games leaves then bottom of the Premier League table and in the midst of their worst start to a season. New manager Gus Poyet has taken the reigns and is scrambling to keep the Black Cats from avoiding the drop, but a 4-0 defeat to Swansea in his first game in charge does not bode well.
GARY SAYS: "Gus Poyet has an absolutely huge job on his hands because they really are struggling. They had that initial surge when Paolo Di Canio first joined that helped them stay up and we thought that they would re-group. They've signed a huge group of players, something like 14 over the summer which is too big a turnover of players to bed in. So whoever the manager is, whether it be Di Canio, whether it be Gus Poyet there it's always going to be a big job trying to bed those players in and I think that's the big problem for them.
"They look like they're lacking energy and organisation in games at the moment but, if you remember last season they had a magnificent North East derby against Newcastle and they'll be thinking maybe this can be the turnaround game to help Sunderland get out of that mess."
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM AT SUNDERLAND?
Sunderland's bleak outlook can be easily be put down to their current poor form. So far this season they have only scored five goals and conceded 15, giving them the worst goal difference in the league.
GARY SAYS: "In the period that Poyet's been in charge he won't have been able to have done a great deal of work with the players and obviously the international breaks would have disrupted him. Also the fact that now between games with recoveries you get very little time to work with players.
"I think it will be the fundamentals where he starts - conceding goals from set-pieces is something he'll need to look at, defending properly and getting out of his box making sure there is more energy in defending.
"I was at the game against Manchester United a few weeks ago and for 45 minutes they really did play well and put a massive amount of energy in to the game but then they suffered after half-time from a drop in energy which Manchester United capitalised on.
"I think getting back to basics is the first thing they need to do - stop conceding goals - this is where the manager will want to start and it's a struggle for Sunderland at the moment. You really would think they're going to have to have a massive turnaround to get out of the problems that they're in."
ARE NEWCASTLE BEGINNING TO FIND FORM?
Newcastle have had problems off the pitch with battles between manager Alan Pardew, Director of Football Joe Kinnear and owner Mike Ashley dominating the headlines more than the football being played.
GARY SAYS: "Newcastle were on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago against Everton and you felt for them at half-time because you thought this could be a really embarrassing fixture for them, but actually, they came out in the second-half and did really well.
"I thought the spirit they showed against Liverpool after going down to 10 men was also good and it was a really good result for them. They've been slightly inconsistent but they've also had some good moments this season and I think generally with the points tally they've amassed Alan Pardew will be really happy. But then there's these types of games; if there was ever a place in the country where losing a derby matters you would say it's the North East.
"I think if Alan Pardew can win this game he will think that it has been a great start to the season, if they were to lose then people would start to look upon it negatively again. It's a huge game for both clubs."
BIG CLUBS IN THE NORTH EAST
The North East has had a long and illustrious footballing history but fortunes have turned drastically in recent years, including the disastrous 2008/09 season where Newcastle and Middlesbrough were relegated and Sunderland just survived on the final day.
GARY SAYS: "I would always want the North East clubs Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the Premier League. I think you want all parts of the country represented and particularly the North East as it's always a great place to play football.
"I always think when you go up to the North East there's never really a feeling that they're going to be defensive against you, it's always attacking and positive and they always create a great atmosphere in the stadium particularly when I played there with Manchester United. I rarely didn't enjoy playing in the North East and we had some poor results up there sometimes. But you always felt the fans up there were appreciative.
"I think we would always want Newcastle and Sunderland to be represented. These clubs have got great stadiums, great followings and obviously you'd think they would be ripe for investment if there were owners looking to buy new clubs at the moment in the next five to 10 years.
"I know Ellis Short has invested quite a bit of money in Sunderland but they just can't get it right at the moment and there was signs a couple of years ago that Newcastle were on the right path and were getting towards Champions League football but now they've just fallen off it a little and Newcastle in particular are a club that are worthy of being right up there at the top of the league because they're a fantastic club, but so are Sunderland as well."