EVERTON manager David Moyes feels his team’s need for points is just as big as Sunderland’s this weekend.
The Toffees travel to the Stadium of Light still in the chase for Champions League places while the Black Cats are in trouble at the opposite end of the Barclays Premier League.
Everton remained four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal after drawing with the Gunners in midweek and, with five games left, can still force their way in.
Sunderland, although apparently rejuvenated by the arrival of Paolo Di Canio as manager, are still just three points above the relegation zone.
Moyes said: “Our need is as great, from our point of view.
“We have got to keep winning and we will have to try that again at Sunderland.
“When people are asking me if we are still in the hunt for Europe, I am pleased about that.”
Moyes believes Di Canio’s appointment has changed the nature of Saturday’s contest.
After a run of eight games without a win, the Wearsiders brought the Italian in to replace Martin O’Neill and his impact has been instant.
There may have been political controversy over his appointment but once that had died down and a difficult game against Chelsea had been negotiated without significant damage, last week’s defeat of Newcastle was potentially season-changing.
Sunderland outplayed their rivals to win 3-0 at St James’ Park and the atmosphere around the club has been transformed ahead of Di Canio’s first home game.
Moyes said: “I think it is a different game, but more than that it is a different game because they had a fantastic result at Newcastle.
“If you win a game like that, as emphatically as they did, then it has got him off to a great start.
“It will have galvanised the club. It’s given their crowd and their players a big lift and it makes it an interesting game.
“I’m disappointed Martin lost his job because I respect him and like a lot of the things he does.
“But Paolo is making his way as a young manager and he did a good job at Swindon.
“His opening gambit so far has been good.
“It is good to see new managers coming on the scene - but it is always sad when you see people who you respect and know are good managers leave as well.”
Di Canio grabbed attention at Swindon as much for his outspoken comments and touchline antics as his achievements.
The spotlight on him will be brighter now he is in the top flight but, if his touchline celebrations at Newcastle are anything to go by, he has no intention of curbing his extrovert ways.
Moyes said: “There is nothing up with that. It shows you care, it is part of the job.
“Everybody has their own way of doing it.
“As you get older I think you get a bit more mellowed, a bit more mature with it, but when you are starting out you are desperate to win games and get your ideas over.
“You’ll do everything you can to do that.”
Moyes has no fresh injuries to contend with but Leon Osman could return from a groin strain.
Moyes is also still to decide whether to stick with 19-year-old midfielder Ross Barkley, who impressed as he made a second successive start against Arsenal, or hold him back.
The highly-rated Barkley spent the first half of the season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and then had a spell at Leeds and Moyes feels those experiences have done him good.
He said: “He has gained a lot. He is a boy who missed a lot of football with a badly broken leg and when he was younger he missed a bit of development.
“A lot has been said about him. Everybody is saying push him in, but the time has got to be right.
“He is beginning to show more signs than he has shown in the past and he is maturing a bit more.
“What he missed he is beginning to get back and the games on loan will have helped.
“He has not been fazed by it but we are still bedding him down to where we think we can get him playing.”