Sunderland’s chances of Premier League survival hinge on them stringing together a winning run in April.
But manager David Moyes remains confident that his side has a good chance of staying up if they perform like they did in the first half against Manchester City yesterday.
Sunderland were beaten 2-0 by Pep Guardiola’s third-placed City, Sergio Aguero with a smart close-ange finish three minutes before the break before the impressive Leroy Sane sealed the visitors’ win in the 59th minute.
Up until that point, Sunderland were more than a match for City, with the Black Cats adopting a pressing game high up the pitch to restrict the visitors from playing out from the back.
Ultimately, though, the Wearsiders had nothing to show for their first-half efforts, with City comfortably seeing out the second 45 minutes to deepen Sunderland’s relegation concerns.
With this weekend’s trip to relegation rivals Middlesbrough postponed due to the Teessiders’ ongoing involvement in the FA Cup, Sunderland are not in action again until March 18 when Burnley come to town.
There is then a further fortnight without football for the Black Cats due to the international breakm ahead of a very busy, pressure-filled April fixture list.
Sunderland play Watford, Leicester City and Arsenal away and Manchester United, West Ham United and Bournemouth at home – with the Boro game also due to be rescheduled.
If the Red and Whites are to stay up, then Moyes believes it will take five wins from the remaining 11 games – which means a winning run is a must next month.
“April looks like being a really big month for us, given the amount of games in it,” said Moyes.
“We don’t want to be adrift, I have always said that.
“We only have one more game in March, the way the month works out.
“There will be a round of Premier League fixtures that we are not involved in – I am hoping that, come the start of April, we might be able to add a few more people to the squad.
“Can we get Victor back, Kirchhoff, Cattermole, who might just bolster the troops going into the final six weeks of the season.”
Jan Kirchhoff could feature for the Under-23s tonight against Manchester United at Hetton as he continues his comeback from injury.
But striker Victor Anichebe and midfielder Lee Cattermole are not expected back until April at the earliest.
Moyes is remaining positive and he has told his players to take the positives too despite another defeat – the 18th of the season.
When asked if Sunderland will stay up if they perform like they did for spells against City, Moyes said: “I think we have a good chance.
“You couldn’t question the players about their energy or their attitude or look over your shoulder at any of them.
“The two full-backs, the midfield boys trying to stop them.
“You could question the quality, what we did with the ball at times.
“We hit the bar against Everton, and it bounced out and it didn’t bounce for anybody. Against City, we hit the post and didn’t quite get the rebound.
“The last two games we have gone close to getting something and I just hope that little bit of fortune changes. We know that it is going to be tough.
“I want to get it to the wire, but we need to win the games.
“We only have one more game in March before we go into April. This was always a tough fixture, to come here and beat Manchester City.
“I thought the players gave it a go and I have told them that, to remain positive and they are.”
Sunderland are six points adrift of safety.