A 10-day break between Premier League fixtures has provided a welcome opportunity for Sunderland’s first-team regulars to gain some respite.
Let’s face it, they look like they needed it on the basis of the sluggish, heavy-legged display in last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Bournemouth.
But Sunderland’s next opponents, Manchester City, have had no opportunity to catch their breath.
After City’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg success last night, Manuel Pellegrini’s side head to basement boys Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday, before they begin their preparations for Tuesday’s clash at the Stadium of Light.
Unlike Sunderland, City have the riches of quality and quantity to shuffle their pack for three games in the space of a week.
But Black Cats full-back Billy Jones hopes that the fatigue factor can give Sunderland an advantage in their desperate need to cause an upset and boost their survival hopes.
“I think it looked like we were heavy legged in that first half against Bournemouth,” admitted Jones.
“But the gaffer said to us afterwards that we’ve got 10 days to get what we need out of it – whether that’s rest and recuperation, or to get that match fitness to put yourself in the frame.
“With all the great staff we’ve got at the club, they’ve been guiding us over what to do correctly.
“When it comes to Tuesday, we’ll hopefully be in tip-top shape for the game.
“Of course, City are blessed with an in-depth squad so they can make the changes.
“But hopefully that fatigue factor plays a part on Tuesday, to our benefit.”
The failure to beat Bournemouth left Sunderland four points adrift of safety, heading into a daunting month of fixtures against both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Sam Allardyce’s high-flying former club West Ham.
Sunderland are beginning to run out of leeway to get themselves out of trouble, with their relegation rivals continuing to pick up positive results.
But while the pressure is beginning to mount on Sunderland, the Black Cats have at least held their nerve when faced with similar situations over recent seasons.
Jones added: “The pressure is all part of modern day football. It’s the Premier League, it’s worldwide, it’s huge.
“The pressure to stay in it is so massive for everyone at the club, especially with the benefits coming next season.
“We’ve got to be able to handle it as individuals and as a collective.
“A lot of the time, I think it’s the team that handles it the best, who gets out of trouble.
“We have to hope that’s us.”