12pm on Sunday marks the kick-off of the most important game in Newcastle United’s season. Forget a potential European chasing campaign, beating them lot at home is always the most meaningful game of the season.

When this fixture was played last year, it turned out to be arguably the greatest ever Derby Day for those clad in black and white ever. The 5-1 demolition is still mentioned on a daily basis in the North-East and anywhere else where a Mackem opens their mouth and attempts to downgrade their superior rivals.

17 months have passed since that day, and the shower from up the road will be determined to try and gain revenge. To do so, they’ll be under the stewardship of Martin O’Neill for the first time, a great deal superior to the last Mackem gaffer to occupy (almost all) of the St James’ Park technical area.

Since O’Neill took the reins up there, they’ve been on an admittedly impressive run of results, with Frazier Campbell and Stephane Sessegnon finding form. Last week they came unstuck though, as West Brom smashed four past them without reply, leaving the points cushion for the Magpies at ten.

Both sides have a busy treatment table ahead of the game, but Papiss Cisse should be fit for Newcastle, after missing Senegal’s midweek international friendly with a slight groin pull.

Long-term absentees Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Steve Harper, Leon Best and Sammy Ameobi are all missing, whilst Nile Ranger’s latest visit to court ensures he remains vastly out of favour under Alan Pardew.

As for the visitors, defensive lynchpins (snigger) Wes Brown and Titus Bramble are out, meaning the sell-out crowd will miss out on the chance to remind the latter of their love of him. There’s mixed news on serial hackers Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole though, with the former Man United man doubtful and everybody’s most despised midfielder available for selection.

Hatem Ben Arfa remains seemingly unfancied in the eyes of Alan Pardew, with the France international clearly not defensively-able enough to earn a regular place in Newcastle’s starting line-up. His attacking talent is clear for all to see though and his creativity in the final third is what the Magpies occasionally lack. Derbies can be quality-lacking contests at the best of times, so maybe the stage is set for “HBA” to make himself a hero come Sunday afternoon.