MARTIN O'Neill is convinced Sunderland can emerge victorious from their "ferocious" derby trip to Newcastle.
The Black Cats head for Tyneside on Sunday desperate to avenge both their 5-1 drubbing there last season and their 1-0 home defeat in August.
Alan Pardew's side is currently 10 points and three places better off in the Barclays Premier League table, but O'Neill and his players will leave Wearside believing they can return significantly closer.
The manager told the Sunderland Echo: "I have experienced an awful lot of derbies, both as a player and as a manager, and in particular a very big derby in world football up in Glasgow between Celtic and Rangers.
"I know that to some Celtic supporters, winning the derby was the be-all and end-all - beating Rangers meant more than whether or not you won the league to a very small minority of supporters.
"I don't subscribe to that viewpoint, but I do understand the passion of the derby rivalry - and I know it will be exactly the same on Sunday.
"It's a massive game and it's one I am looking forward to. It's a ferocious derby and I'm sure it will be played at a great pace.
"We are away from home, which makes it difficult, but we have to be ready for it, and if we perform as strongly as we can, of course we can win it."