SUNDERLAND have been challenged to treat tonight’s crunch encounter at Hull City like a make-or-break final game of the season.
The Black Cats are teetering just three points above the bottom three, yet have the chance to create some breathing space with the drop at the KC Stadium tonight, and leapfrog fellow strugglers Hull City in the process.
Forget about the progression in terms of the way we want to play.Gus Poyet
Sunderland have won just one Premier League game in 2015 and only managed two victories all season – Burnley and Crystal Palace – against sides lying alongside them in the dogfight at the wrong end of the table.
But with Hull and Aston Villa next up for Sunderland, head coach Gus Poyet has made no attempt to mask the magnitude of a pivotal meeting tonight against the Tigers.
Poyet said: “We want to play this game like the last game of the season.
“We need to win tonight and then we can be ready for Aston Villa. That’s the mentality we need to achieve now.
“Forget about the progression in terms of the way we want to play.
“We’re going to give that a little bit of a break until we can take points and get away from the teams at the bottom.
“This is a key moment and that’s why we’re going to have play in a very special manner.
“We’re depending on this game to change the season around.”
Sunderland’s tally stands at 25 points, with three league wins from the final 11 games potentially being sufficient to beat the drop.
But although Poyet is not convinced the hallowed 40-point mark will be needed for Premier League safety this year, he is wary of being drawn into any mathematics.
“My idea was always to get over the 40 points,” he said. “But lately, with four or five points less, you could be all right.
“You cannot think like that though.”
Sunderland will be backed by yet another sold-out away end tonight, with only one Premier League game on the road this season failing to reach its full allocation.
Poyet added: “It’s unique. It’s incredible. I think the players need to realise that. The fans deserve better.
“I would love to be in the players’ position and have the chance to play the game tonight, give the fans something to cheer about and leave them coming home happy from an away game.
“The support has been exceptional, so we need to give something back.”