John O’Shea tuned into watch Manchester City hammer Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup on Wednesday.
But the experienced centre-back says that Sunderland’s performances against the top sides on home turf is cause for optimism, going into Sunday’s Premier League clash against Pep Guardiola’s team at the Stadium of Light (4pm kick-off).
Sunderland boss David Moyes was at the Etihad Stadium to cast his eye over the Black Cats’ next opponents, who recovered from conceding an early goal to run amok and put five goals past the Terriers.
Third-placed City’s form has been patchy at times this season, but O’Shea says it was only a matter of time before they hit top gear.
O’Shea, 35, said: “[I watched] Most of it. Well look, they seem to have hit that bit of form, but, for me, it was only a matter of time.
“You can’t have that much quality and not be performing.
“Anytime you play Man City, you know you’re going to get a tough game, but we’ve got positive results against them too.
“It’s one we’re looking forward to. Yeah, we’re in a tough position. We’ve been here before – we have to pluck that result out from somewhere and get that momentum swinging back our way.”
Sunderland have landed a number of shock wins over Manchester City over the years (four 1-0 victories at home in a row from the 2010-11 campaign), though it is now more than three years since they last tasted victory in this fixture.
Nevertheless, they pushed Guardiola’s side close on the opening day of the season with an under-strength side, with O’Shea himself thrust into an unfamiliar defensive midfield role.
The Wearsiders have also taken points from Liverpool and Tottenham at the Stadium of Light since the turn of the year and held Antonio Conte’s in-form Chelsea for large parts of December’s 1-0 home defeat.
That gives O’Shea cause for optimism, with every game now important for the bottom-placed Black Cats.
The Irishman said: “We’ve had good performances here against the top teams – against Tottenham and Liverpool, and we should have really got something from the Chelsea game as well.
“With the games we have coming up after Manchester City, we have to make sure we respond to the pressure of these big-game situations because every game now, like it has been all season, is so important.
“We have to take something from them.
“If we perform to our best, we can cause them [City] lots of problems. They’ll be thinking the same.”
Manchester City will likely have to play below par if Sunderland are to get a positive result on Sunday, but O’Shea insists their fate is in their own hands.
The captain has called on Sunderland’s players to take responsibility but says he will use his experience to help guide his team-mates through the relegation battle.
O’Shea said: “Ultimately, it’s down to us and how we perform.
“The attitude in training this week has been fantastic. You maintain that and hopefully you have no injuries in the build-up to it, the manager has a team to pick, tactics to go for, and hopefully we enforce that on the pitch.
“We’ll be looking at areas hopefully we can exploit and, if they are slightly underperforming, we can take advantage of that.
“Every player should feel that responsibility, captain or not.
“The more experience you have, obviously the more guidance you can give to the younger players, or the lads who’ve come in from other countries also.
“That’s the collective unit, the players, the coaches, strength and conditioning, physios. When everyone is going in the right direction, that’s when you give yourself a chance.”