MARTIN O’Neill has warned his players they’ll be facing a team on a high after Bolton’s stirring 2-1 win over fellow Premier League strugglers Aston Villa earlier this week.
The Trotters’ triumph at Villa Park has given them a real lifeline, and they are likely to arrive at the Stadium of Light seeing the game as an opportunity for them.
Owen Coyle’s side might still be in the relegation zone, but the win on Tuesday – and the three points that came with it – means that they are in with a good chance of escape now, and a good display against Sunderland on Saturday could see them leap free of the bottom three.
“Bolton have a good spirit and that has stood them in good stead.
“It has been a tough old season for them one way or another, but they had a magnificent win midweek against Villa – coming from a goal behind – and that will give them great heart coming to us.
“It was a big win for them.
“They are in a position where they need the points, and effectively you could say that the game on Saturday is their game in hand over some of their rivals.
“So they will know that if they get a good result at our place, it will put them in so much stronger a position.
“That’s an incentive they will have, and we have to be aware of the fact that they are going to be looking forward to this game and really looking to get something out of it.”
O’Neill feels Sunderland need to match Bolton’s desire, but he’s also aware that an expected crowd of well over 40,000 tomorrow will want to have an influence as well.
“Bolton, in the last couple of years, if you look at their defensive record, do seem to concede a few goals,” said the Black Cats boss.
“The Bolton boss will know that, he will see it himself and he doesn’t need me to tell him.
“But perhaps that’s something we can exploit.
“We are the team with home advantage, we have a big crowd coming to see us, and we have to give them something to cheer.
“We want to finish the season well, and you always want to play well in front of your own fans.”