Football fans planning to attend Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby are being urged not to let tension turn into trouble.
Northumbria Police said they empathise with Sunderland and Newcastle United supporters as both teams strive for Premier League survival.
But they hope recent improvements in relations between fans will continue.
About 3,000 Sunderland fans are expected to attend the game in Newcastle’s St James’ Park.
Newcastle are second from bottom of the Premier League, one point and two places behind Sunderland who are just above the relegation places on goal difference.
Ch Supt Steve Neill said police will be present but fans will be allowed to make their own way to the stadium unlike in previous years when they have been escorted to the ground.
He said tension between the supporters has softened since two Newcastle United fans, Liam Sweeney and John Alder, were killed in the MH17 air disaster in July 2014.
Sunderland fans raised funds in memory of the pair and also paid tribute at matches.
Ch Supt Neill said: “In the last couple of derbies there has been a marked change as a result of fans having a bit of respect for each other but also because of the change in neighbourhood policing style we have adopted.
“We are aware of the relevant league positions and how important it is to both clubs and to both sets of supporters.
“We will show some empathy with regards how the result goes but we will still be very positive and engaging with people in the city.”
Sunderland are running 25 free coaches which police are encouraging fans to use.
Both the Metro and Northern Rail will also be providing non-stop services between Sunderland and Newcastle.
Kick off will be at 13:30 GMT.