Di Canio excited for Tyne-Wear showdown

Sunderland manager Paolo di Canio cannot wait to experience "one of the toughest" derbies in world football.

Paolo Di Canio, manager of Sunderland

The 44-year-old will send his relegation-haunted side into the white-hot cauldron of Newcastle's St James' Park on Sunday having tasted the particular spice of both Lazio v Roma and Celtic v Rangers encounters as a player.

However, he admits the Tyne-Wear showdown, which this year could have significant consequences for the respective participants, represents as difficult a test as any he has faced in his career to date.

Di Canio said: "I can't wait, I can't wait. We live for it. We live to win cups or we live to qualify for the Europa League, to play in the Champions League, we live to play at the top level.

"But you know here, the result can change the mood for the derby next year because there is a joke between the fans. They work together at the office.

"I know what is going on - in Rome it is similar, even if here it is more tough because we are talking about two different cities very close.

"This one is very, very tough. We know for what reason - Celtic v Rangers, there is a fire in this derby for not only sports reasons, we all know this.

"But this one is one of the toughest, in my opinion, in the world and I am more than happy to have this chance."

Di Canio, of course, is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, sometimes to his detriment, but he knows derby day is one for cool heads.

Sunderland came close to snatching their first win on Tyneside since November 2000 last season despite having Stephane Sessegnon sent off 13 minutes after the break, and skipper Lee Cattermole followed him after the final whistle following Shola Ameobi's last-gasp equaliser.

And the Italian admits discipline will be key to his side's hopes this time around.

When it was suggested to him that he had been an excitable player himself, Di Canio replied with a smile: "Just a few times.

"We know what happened last year. It wasn't a very friendly game. We have to make sure, even if I can't wait - already it is easy to imagine that the players are going to give everything - but we have to show our character, we have to drive our energy in a positive way.

"We know sometimes, some players can lose their temper maybe because they want to show the fans they can be proud of them, and they can do something that puts the team in trouble.

"I will try to persuade them to use their energy to score a goal and to defend well to beat them and maybe celebrate the victory.

"We know [the suspended] Craig [Gardner] is out, unfortunately, because he is a real warrior, but we have other players that we have to make sure they are okay and they use their energy in the right way."

Sunderland make the short trip to Gallowgate on the back of a nine-game winless run which has yielded just three points and only seven goals.

The loss of leading scorer Steven Fletcher for the rest of the campaign has left a huge hole in Di Canio's attacking resources, and with both January signing Danny Graham and teenager Connor Wickham fighting to be fit for the weekend, it is a fair question to ask where the threat will come from.

The manager said: "The organisation, the desire, the ambition can help.

"Obviously with Fletcher out, the top scorer in this team, and Graham just arrived only in January - we know he has got pedigree, he has scored at any level - we don't have a top scorer in the box.

"But against Chelsea on Sunday we arrived in the box with four or five players, and that's what I want to see from my team."



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