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Chopra keeping head down ahead of derby
TWO goals in three appearances could have secured Michael Chopra's starting place against Manchester City tomorrow, but manager Roy Keane might have to find him first.
With just nine days remaining until Sunderland head to Newcastle United, Chopra has joked that he has been sleeping in a 'secret location' during the build-up to the derby.
Given that the Gosforth-born former Magpies striker still lives on Tyneside, it is no surprise to learn his first return to St James' Park as a player is going to be 'a bit special' for him.
There is no danger of Chopra being afforded an easy ride from the Newcastle fans, who hoped he would become the club's home-grown goalscoring hero.
Sunderland's £5m buy from Cardiff City is looking forward to the chance to play his part in a red and white shirt against Kevin Keegan's men next week.
"I can't wait for it, I have had one big eye on it for a while," said Chopra, who played the full 90 minutes when the two sides recorded a 1-1 draw in November.
"I have been looking forward to it for a long time, since I signed. It should be fantastic and I can't wait.
"Both teams are going well, so it will be a tight game, and it will be good to know that the game will take place without a serious threat of relegation for either club.
"It's going to be great going back there for me. It's going to be a big derby and it's going to be special.
"I still live in Newcastle, so it should be interesting, so I have got a secret location to live in for the next couple of weeks."
Prior to leaving Newcastle for Cardiff in July 2007, Chopra's only Premier League goal was against Sunderland in a 4-1 win at the Stadium of Light during Glenn Roeder's reign.
He has added a further five to his curriculum vitae this season, two of which have arrived in crucial wins over Aston Villa and Fulham in recent weeks, boosting Sunderland's chances of staying up.
There are now ten points separating the Black Cats from the bottom three, while Newcastle are two points better off - something Chopra feels is good for the North-East.
"I remember when I was a kid, I used to look straight for the Newcastle v Sunderland games because they were the games when the area really did take off," said Chopra.
"The fans of both clubs will have been waiting for that for months and we will make sure we are in the right frame of mind.
"Both sets of fans will appreciate the fact that both teams should be in the Premier League next season and that there will be more derbies.
"That's what everyone in the region wants. To know we should head there safe makes it even better."
A fourth successive win when the final whistle has blown at home to Manchester City tomorrow, coupled with results elsewhere, could mean Sunderland's top-flight status has been guaranteed for next season.
And while preparations are in place for such a scenario, manager Roy Keane will only start to work on his summer transfer targets once safety is certain.
He will be in the market for a new striker come the close-season, with Nancy striker Marc-Antoine Fortune the latest player said to be in his sights.
If Keane is successful in acquiring more than one striker then question marks will inevitably raised about those already at his disposal, including Cardiff target Chopra.