Rafa Benitez has labelled the Tyne-Wear derby as big as any El Clasico, Merseyside or Milan derby he has been involved in.
Former Liverpool, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss Benitez takes charge of his first Newcastle United home game since taking over as manager following the sacking of Steve McClaren.
And the new boss believes the crunch Premier League fixture against relegation rivals Sunderland is as big as they come.
Writing in today's matchday programme, Benitez said: "I may be new to this club but I am fully aware of the importance of today's fixture.
"Newcastle and Sunderland have a fierce rivalry that means so much to the local people , and it is time to put an end to our poor run of results in this game.
"I have a lot of experience of derbies and, in my opinion, this game is right up there with Real Madrid against Barcelona, Liverpool against Everton and Inter Milan against AC Milan."