Jan Kirchhoff focused on shut-outs to help Sunderland stay clear of danger

Sunderland are running out of time to end their clean sheet curse, particularly with goal-shy Newcastle United next on the horizon, writes Chris Young.

Monday, 14th March 2016, 7:30 am
Jan Kirchhoff in action against West Ham.

That’s the belief of Sunderland January signing Jan Kirchhoff, as the Black Cats’ efforts to remain in the Premier League continue to be undermined by their inability to register a shut-out.

Sunderland’s run without a clean-sheet now stands at 15 top flight games, with the last-gasp equaliser against Southampton in their last outing denying Sam Allardyce’s men what would have been a first opposition blank since November.

Norwich’s draw with Manchester City on Saturday kept Sunderland out of the relegation zone on goal difference, albeit Newcastle United have the chance to overtake the Black Cats if they can spring a major upset against league leaders Leicester in new manager Rafa Benitez’s first game in charge tonight.

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But midfielder Kirchhoff knows that if Sunderland are to remain out of the bottom three, then they must master the knack of clean sheets, with next Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby pitting them against a Newcastle side who are the second lowest scorers in the league.

The German said: “We need to get clean sheets.

“Everyone can see that we create chances.

“I’ve seen that in every game since I’ve been here, but we don’t manage to stay strong enough in defence and get a clean sheet.

“We defend well and we’ve got a good shape, but then we give the ball away in bad situations.

“I think when you’re down at the bottom of the table though, sometimes you just have bad luck.”

The derby is one of four remaining away games for Sunderland - two of which are against the pair of sides battling alongside them to avoid relegation to the Championship.

But 16 of Sunderland’s 25 points this season have come at the Stadium of Light, and Kirchhoff believes that the outcome of those home games is going to be crucial for Allardyce’s side.

“We’ve got pressure in every game. We have to win, we have to get points,” he added.

“But I think the key for us staying in the league is winning our home games.

“We’ve got six home games from now on, so we have to win them and go on from there.”