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Paolo Di Canio took charge of Sunderland for the first time against Chelsea

Paolo Di Canio took charge of Sunderland for the first time against Chelsea

Paolo Di Canio took charge of Sunderland for the first time against Chelsea

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

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. We live for it. We live to play at the top level.

"In Rome it is similar. 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 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.

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

"We know what happened last year. It wasn't a very friendly game. We know sometimes, players can lose their temper ... 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.

"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, it is a fair question to ask where the threat will come from.

"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."

3NEWCASTLE v SUNDERLAND

Tomorrow, Live Sky Sports 1 (12.0)


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