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So much is at stake in the destruction derby.

Byline: John GIBSON

COLLECTIVE ill fortune has turned tomorrow's full-frontal confrontation into the destruction derby - where fragile dreams of survival can be smashed or joyous salvation confirmed.

Maybe in theory victory appears to be more crucial to Sunderland than United but this is a derby for goodness sake - and isn't it about time the Magpies finally rid their followers of that gnawing doubt about relegatis on? United have not been in danger of getting sucked into a fight for survival as has been regularly touted.

They have been slap-bang in the mire's claggy stuff often but two points from residing in the relegation cellar itself.

So the fervent wish of Tyneside is for United to at last kill off any prospect of being taken to the wire - and to do it while thrusting a sword into the heart of their bitterest of rivals would only delight the natives.

Often a shoot-out depends upon the top guns ranged against one another.

Well Newcastle have Papiss Cisse, the Harry Houdini of the Premier League whose escape act at the very last moment of late has produced results of much relief.

Sunderland, on the other hand, have been robbed of their sharpshooter Steven Fletcher through an unfortunate injury - and derby matches can be turned on such slim margins.

However, I suspect Sunderland, revved up by jack in the box Paolo di Canio, will be doggedly defiant and difficult to overcome. The combination of a derby match and an increasingly worrying battle for survival ought to guarantee nothing less.

If the Di Canio factor is the unknown equation with Sunderland, then the effect of elimination from the Europa League, mentally as well as physically, is what black-andwhites worry about. It is now all or nothing in the Premier League and Alan Pardew has to come up with a starting XI capable of delivering derby delight.

United's three subs - Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi and Sylvain Marveaux - made all the difference against Benfica on Thursday night when a laboured performance against superior opposition suddenly produced more verve and dash.

Ben Arfa is a different class and, if fit enough, has to start while I am a great believer in the skills of Marveaux who for me deserves a kick-off place.

Amoebi, of course simply terrifies Sunderland and the sight of him emerging from the bench would guarantee palpitations within Mackem hearts.

It was former Newcastle star Chris Waddle who recently told me he felt Moussa Sissoko does not score enough goals to play as the support to Cisse, and I tend to agree.

All I would do is a tactical shuffle putting Ben Arfa in the slot just behind the No 9 and dropping his fellow Frenchman into the midfield line where he can still do his box-to-box running.

United are out of Europe not because they failed to score two goals at St James' Park but because of their suicidal acts in Lisbon - playing with some assurance, Davide Santon then delivered a shocking, blinkered back pass and Steven Taylor a handball penalty to gift Benfica what turned out to be an unassailable lead.

Newcastle must not be so generous at the back against Sunderland, though the occupiers of the second Stadium of Light have nowhere near the class of the Lisbon lions.

Let the Sunday carvery commence and let Newcastle be the ones dishing up the goodies.

CAPTION(S):

RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB Hatem Ben Arfa would be perfect for United in the hole behind Papiss Cisse against Paolo Di Canion's fired-up Sunderland
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 13, 2013
Words:590
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