Jermaine Jenas has clearly done his homework on a Sunderland side he knows well and therefore expects our visit to the Stadium of Light on Saturday to be a true test of our credentials.
Not only does the midfielder have a number of friends on Wearside, he has also watched in admiration results such as their 3-0 win at Chelsea in November that see them fighting for a place in Europe next season.
Last weekend’s defeat at Stoke leaves the Black Cats in seventh, a point behind Liverpool in sixth and seven behind both us and Chelsea in the battle for a Champions League spot.
JJ admits Steve Bruce’s men have been something of a surprise package this season, but believes we cannot afford to falter against them if our aspirations are to be realised come May.
He said: “I think this is a very big challenge. Sunderland have always been a top team and a tough side to play against. I know a few of the lads like Fraizer [Campbell], Titus [Bramble] and Kieran Richardson.
“I have watched them recently and I have been impressed. The Stamford Bridge result and for 85 minutes against Stoke they were the best team as well but were just unlucky in the end.
“Everybody knew that they had decent players at their club but I think the way they have performed and how far up the league they are has definitely surprised a few people.
“We have got to go there, be positive and win the game. We are sitting in fifth place at the minute and knocking on the door of fourth so we have to be confident.
“We have been doing well and I think it is important that if you want to finish in the Champions League places to stay focused and not have any slip ups.”
And JJ has some good memories of Wearside to take with him on Saturday, adding: “I made my full debut for Newcastle at the Stadium of Light. It was my first full game for them. It was a lively contest being a local derby.
“They had Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips up front but we ended up winning the game 1-0. I think [Nikos] Dabizas in the second half scored in about the 64th minute. Shay Given pulled off a few ‘worldie’ saves and so my debut turned out to be a fantastic one.”