Dick Advocaat admits Sunderland have to be mindful of the goal difference column if they are unable to salvage a survival-sealing point at Arsenal tonight.
A draw at the Emirates will mathematically ensure Sunderland are playing Premier League football next season, and leave Newcastle and Hull to fight it out for the last relegation spot on the final day of the campaign.
But a narrow defeat against the third-placed Gunners would not be a catastrophic outcome for Sunderland.
Sunderland’s goal difference is five better than fourth-bottom Newcastle’s and unless the Black Cats fritter that away over their final two games at Arsenal and Chelsea, it would leave the Magpies AND Hull both needing to triumph on Sunday.
While Sunderland head coach Advocaat is confident of coming away with at least a point at Arsenal, he is aware of goal difference and the importance of avoiding a collapse like last month’s 4-1 rout against Crystal Palace.
Advocaat said: “You have to think about the goal difference, yes.
“I’m looking for us to get a goal at Arsenal and get a point.
“But we can’t give it away to 2-0 and then let what happened against Crystal Palace.
“We have to keep fighting until the final whistle.”
A point would also be a positive outcome for Arsenal tonight, with the Gunners needing just one more to be sure of third place in the table.
Yet Advocaat is not convinced there will be any gentleman’s agreement between the two sets of players if the game remains level heading into the latter stages.
Neither does he believe that Sunderland will be afflicted by anxiety tonight at the chance to secure their own destiny after sensing a confident streak in his players following a run of eight points from the last four games.
“We can’t think about Arsenal needing a point too,” he added.
“We just have to go out there and get one.
“Hopefully we can get the point today, because then that makes the last four days easier.
“I’m still confident because with the way the players are training, the confidence is still there.
“I read the papers, see how they speak about it, and you can read the confidence too.
“You cannot go to Arsenal and be nervous.
“You need a very positive feeling. What can you lose? Nothing.
“That only works in our advantage.
“You can see with the way they talk to each other that they are up for staying up.
“Everyone wants to play in the Premier League and they want to stay at this club.”