MATT Kilgallon has urged Sunderland to prey on the frayed nerves of relegation-threatened Aston Villa tomorrow.
Sunderland head to Villa Park this weekend to face an Aston Villa side who have won just one of their last 11 games and lie a precarious six points above the drop zone.
Only basement boys Wolves have collected fewer points over the last 10 outings than Alex McLeish’s men, and with both Wigan and QPR hot on their heels, the pressure is on Villa in back-to-back home games against Sunderland and third-bottom Bolton.
A spate of injuries, including former Black Cats striker Darren Bent, along with the news that club captain Stilian Petrov is fighting leukaemia has only intensified Villa’s fears for their final five games.
But defender Kilgallon insists Sunderland must show no mercy tomorrow as Martin O’Neill’s men look to get back on track for a second successive top-10 finish by ending their four-game winless streak.
Kilgallon said: “Villa are not 100 per cent safe yet, so they are still fighting for their lives.
“We’ve got to go there, stop them playing and really put pressure on them.
“I think it is hard for a team like Villa when they find themselves in a relegation fight.
“Some of the other teams down there – Wigan for example – are more used to it and know what it is all about.
“Villa have got some good players, but when you are involved in a fight at the bottom, the pressure can get to you.”
Kilgallon has rejected talk that Sunderland are coasting towards the finishing line after failing to beat basement boys Wolves last weekend.
The 28-year-old admits Sunderland were below par against Wolves, but says there is still a determination in the Black Cats camp to end the season with a flourish.
“We kept a clean sheet against Wolves last week yet, as a team, we just lacked that spark to score a goal,” added Kilgallon.
“But everybody is still working hard – the boss is making sure of that.
“No one is thinking that we are coming to the end so we can cruise.
“The incentive is still there for everyone because we are all playing for our positions.”