A FORTNIGHT ago, Gus Poyet challenged his Sunderland side to emerge victorious from at least one of back-to-back away games.
One point from trips to Manchester United and Hull actually increased the margin with the bottom three due to the failings of those below Sunderland in the relegation dogfight.
But Sunderland’s continuing inability to take a decisive step away from the drop zone and create some healthy daylight, places more importance on each game as the weeks go by.
However, there was no ‘bigging up’ the magnitude of today’s tussle against fellow strugglers Aston Villa in Poyet’s pre-match media briefing; the Sunderland boss instead preferring a measured, level-headed approach to the encounter.
Poyet said: “I think it’s a very important game. I’m not going to go with huge because we are trying to make every single game like that now.
“We know these games are special but sometimes I think we exaggerate it a bit.
“The closer you get to the end of the season the bigger they look but at the end of the day it’s a football game.
“We need to go into it in a positive manner. The team has been good this week and we have got more or less the same squad, apart from Lee (Cattermole) who got suspended last week.
“We are ready. We are trying to be positive.
“I think there’s been too many things going around and at the end of the day we need to concentrate on the football field and performing. That will make it easier to get the three points.
“We have been in certain moments when we have had the chance to really go away from the group at the bottom and we didn’t take those chances.
“Now we have got another one, so the idea is not to lose every single chance we have.”
Villa lie just one point and one place below Sunderland in the dogfight, with Poyet well aware of how desperate his side are for only a third home victory of the campaign after five league games without a win.
“Even without winning, there have been things that are quite positive,” he added.
“You see them every day on the training ground and on the pitch in terms of commitment and desire.
“But of course we need to win, and that’s what we are playing for today.
“I just hope the players get a bit of credit for doing something very well.”