MOUSSA Sissoko is in the form of his life at Newcastle United – and he’s challenged his team-mates to play the game of their lives against Sunderland.
The club’s players are under no illusions about the importance of the Tyne-Wear derby after three successive defeats in the fixture, according to Sissoko.
Alan Pardew’s side take on the United’s fierce rivals in the Premier League at St James’s Park on Sunday.
And the stakes couldn’t be higher, with Pardew having last season become the first manager to preside over three straight derby losses.
“We know Sunday is a big game for us and for the city,” said Sissoko.
Eighth-placed Newcastle – and especially Pardew – can’t afford another defeat.
In-form Sissoko has shrugged off the knock which forced him off in midweek against Tottenham Hotspur and is fit to face Gus Poyet’s Sunderland.
And the midfielder says United must forget about the 4-0 Capital One Cup defeat at White Hart Lane – and give everything in a fixture in which the team has been found wanting in recent years.
“You have to forget the 4-0 defeat against Tottenham and try to be ready for the Sunderland match, because it is massive for us,” said Sissoko.
“We will be ready for Sunday, and we know that we haven’t been good enough in the recent games against them.
“Every derby we aim to win. We lost last time, but Sunday is another game and we will try to win it and play well.
“I can assure the supporters we know what it means.
“Every player is ready. We will be focused on ready for the match because it’s massive.”
Asked about the kick which forced him off, he added: “It’s OK. It’s just a kick on the knee. I saw the doctor – I will be ready for Sunday.”
Sissoko helped Newcastle beat previously-unbeaten Premier League leaders Chelsea on his last home outing, and the 25-year-old will again need to be at his best against Sunderland.
The France international, playing through the middle this season, feels he is playing some of the best football of his career.
“For me, my best position is in the middle,” said Sissoko, signed from Toulouse in January last year.
“After the manager decides if I play centre midfield or right or left, I work hard at it.
“For me, my favourite position is in the centre because it allows me to run the line and move forward quickly.
“That’s my best position, and I feel that I am playing my best football. Still though, I need
“Maybe I am playing some of my best football, but it is because the rest of the team are too.
“They are helping me out. I will do my best for the team on Sunday to try and win the game.”
United were backed by 4,200 fans at White Hart Lane, where a mistake from goalkeeper Jak Alnwick led to Tottenham’s first goal, scored by Nabil Bentaleb in the 18th minute.
Nacer Chabli, Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado netted second-half goals to give Mauricio Pochettino’s side a convincing victory.
Sissoko said: “It’s sad. We tried to win the game, but we were playing against a very good Tottenham team.
“Now it is over and we have to think about the next game on Sunday.”
Alnwick, Newcastle’s third-choice goalkeeper, was today being assessed ahead of the derby, having suffered a shoulder injury against Tottenham.
Sissoko is confident the 21-year-old can put a difficult night at White Hart Lane behind him against Sunderland, the club with which he started his career.
“We’re not worried about it – anybody can make a mistake in a game,” said Sissoko.
“It’s OK. We have to forget about this. Jak is strong, he will be OK for Sunday, if he’s fit.”