By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
The arrival of Paolo Di Canio on Wearside and both team's league positions makes Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby between Newcastle and Sunderland one of the most intriguing and important for many a year - but Alan Pardew insists no extra spice is needed.
Sunderland arrive at St. James' Park in only Di Canio's second game in charge following Martin O'Neill's sacking knowing that defeat or even a draw could see them slide into the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League.
Newcastle, meanwhile, are not safe themselves and so bragging rights and local pride are not the only things at stake at the weekend - even if Pardew hopes both teams stay up at the end of the campaign.
He said: "It's a passionate game played by two teams who are 15 miles apart or whatever it is; passionate Mackems, passionate Geordies. We've got 50,000 and that gives us a slight advantage and I'm sure they'll want to make themselves heard.
"If you can't get motivated for this game then you shouldn't be at Newcastle and you shouldn't be at Sunderland.
"Both teams are very highly motivated to win.
"I think we need the points just as much as them. 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're both fighting for that at the moment. But it won't make it any larger, the game. It's a huge game here for us and the people of the city.
"We have to make sure that we give a performance like we did against Benfica: with everything. If we lose to Sunderland we need to make sure we give at least that, because that's what they expect, and the same for Sunderland fans.
"Someone will be disappointed, I'm sure. Even if it's a draw it might be a last minute draw or whatever, like that year when I thought they perhaps just edged it and we got a goal towards the end.
"It's a tight game but we're really looking forward to it. We're in good shape and hopefully we can get three points."
Last season's derby at St. James' Park featured heated exchanges between the two benches and although Di Canio wasn't in the Black Cats dugout last term, he is certainly a fiery character.
But Pardew - who has written to the Italian to welcome him to the region - said: "As a player, he was a player I loved. We have a mutual bond in that we both were employed at West Ham, him as a player - a great player - at West Ham and somebody that was spoken about very highly by my staff when I arrived there.
"I just missed him but Peter Grant, who was my assistant, said he was one of the best trainers he ever worked with at Celtic and one of the best people on the training ground, and he'll bring that enthusiasm to the Sunderland training ground.
"He hasn't got much experience as a manager and he's learning all the time. He'll have learnt a lot in the last two weeks, I'm sure of that, but I'm sure he's intelligent enough to put that in the right context.
"I'll shake his hand and look forward to meeting him before the game and after - but during the game, I'll do everything to try and win.
"I've got no problem with anything he's done or said since he's been at Sunderland in terms of how he's conducted himself with us; very professional and that's how he'll be on the sideline, I'm sure.
"He knows the spotlight will be on him, as it is on me, as Premiership managers and we have to conduct ourselves in the right manner.
"I've said before that this fixture carries just a little bit too much personal level of intent and actually it's a game of football and that's what it is. Hopefully the best team will win on Sunday.
"We're in good form, I think. We've got some players coming back that make us a little bit stronger and I think it's a tough game for Sunderland."