Sam Allardyce’s message to Sunderland’s players at Selhurst Park tonight will be “Do not lose” – despite ominous upcoming fixtures giving little encouragement for much-needed victories.
Sunderland face an uphill battle to end a run of two back-to-back defeats this evening, against a Crystal Palace side who could move into the Premier League’s top six with victory over the Black Cats.
Let’s not put too much pressure on and say ‘right lads you’ve got to win this no matter what’.Sam Allardyce
Yet compared to a run of games in December which sees Sunderland face Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, Palace is one of the more inviting games on paper for the Black Cats’ hopes of improving their plight in the relegation dogfight.
However, Allardyce says Sunderland cannot put pressure on themselves by thinking every game is a “must win”, with baby steps required to create some momentum for a survival challenge.
“At the moment, every team is confident they’re going to beat us,” admitted Allardyce.
“We’ve got to be confident in ourselves and in our own ability and say that that’s not going to be the case, starting at Crystal Palace.
“Make sure you don’t lose.
“That’s what I ask, just don’t lose, lads. Let’s start with that.
“Let’s not put too much pressure on and say ‘right lads, you’ve got to win this no matter what’.
“They’ll probably end up losing if you do that.
“At least come away with a result.
“That’s the most disappointing thing for me in the four games here.
“We should have had at least another two points on the board.”
Palace have netted just one more goal this season than Sunderland, but Eagles boss Alan Pardew has forged a defensively-solid outfit, who are lethal on the counter-attack.
Allardyce knows Sunderland have to be well-organised to contain the threat of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon on the break, with ex-Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye pulling the strings from the middle of the park.
On Palace’s counter-attacking threat, Allardyce said: “We have to nullify it by defending as a team correctly.
“If you don’t give them the space to run into, then they can’t show the pace that they’ve got.
“If you nullify that space, they find it difficult to exploit their strengths, which is very very quick players particularly in the wide areas, and a very very clever player in Cabaye that they’ve added to the squad, who’s very clever with his passing in the final third.
“We certainly have to block that to start with.”