The Sunderland camp are inevitably keeping half an eye on relegation rivals and neighbours Newcastle United, even if the Black Cats are determined to take charge of their own destiny.
Second bottom Newcastle closed the gap on Sunderland to a solitary point when they drew with Manchester City on Tuesday night and have another opportunity to overtake Sam Allardyce’s men tomorrow, if they can produce a shock win at Liverpool.
When you get to this stage of the season, the teams that are fighting to stay up have to perform.
However, Sunderland’s fate remains in their own hands, with the Black Cats facing the first of two games in hand on the Magpies against Arsenal on Sunday.
A draw would be sufficient for Sunderland to leap-frog fourth bottom Norwich City and after beating the Canaries, striker Jermain Defoe insists Allardyce’s side are eager to keep the momentum going, regardless of Newcastle’s fortunes.
“Newcastle played well (against City) but I suppose they had to,” said Defoe.
“When you get to this stage of the season, the teams that are fighting to stay up have to perform. It’s just as simple as that.
“I was nervous because towards the end Joe Hart made a great save and it was one of those moments when you close your eyes.
“They got a point and it’s really tight down there, but we just have to focus on ourselves and try to get as many wins as we can.”
Sunderland suffered two 3-1 defeats in league and cup at this weekend’s opponents Arsenal earlier this season after the visitors were punished for their wasteful finishing.
But with Arsenal’s form stuttering over recent weeks, Defoe believes Sunderland can spring an upset.
“They’re a good team, but I believe it’s a game where, if we approach it in the right way and take our chances, we’ll have a good chance,” he said. “I’m sure Arsenal are not thinking it’s going to be an easy game. We’ve been playing well, and even the Southampton and Newcastle games or even when we played City at home, there were some unbelievable performances there.”