Sunderland could be on the receiving end of a Manchester City hammering if they start in first gear like the last two games, Sam Allardyce has warned.
A snail-paced opening 15 minutes proved to be Sunderland’s downfall in back-to-back defeats against Watford and then Chelsea after Allardyce’s men fell behind early on in both encounters.
Boxing Day’s opponent Manchester City are not in a sparkling run of form after two losses in their last three games, but Allardyce knows the ramifications if Sunderland begin the encounter on the back foot.
“If you give Manchester City any encouragement, they can batter you. Simple as that,” said Allardyce.
“My fear at Chelsea with the way we started was that it could have been five or six if we didn’t pull it together.
“There’s a way you can lose a match, and a way you don’t lose a match.
“If you do the latter, then that heaps even more pressure on you than you already have.”
Sunderland’s position in the relegation battle became even more precarious after last weekend’s fixtures, with the Black Cats now five points adrift of the safety mark.
Allardyce added: “We’re a relegation side at the minute. We’ve got less points than games played. The mathematics is that the bare minimum you’ve got to try to achieve is 38 games, 38 points.
“It could be less than that, but you’re dithering on whether it’s going to be a low points season.
“For me, the main target is it should always be more points than games played.
“If you do that, you’re close to getting your head above water. We’ve been drowning ever since I’ve been here.”