LEE Cattermole’s return to full fitness means the ex-Sunderland skipper will fight it out with new arrival Liam Bridcutt for the defensive midfielder role against Hull City tomorrow.
But Gus Poyet says whichever team he selects, it has to do everything to overcome the Tigers at the Stadium of Light and make it three league wins on the trot for the Black Cats.
The head coach said: “This is a massive game for us and after doing so well in recent weeks, I want the players to see it through.
“We need to be realistic – a month ago, we were bottom.
“And when you look at the three games after Hull, they are so difficult that, who knows, we could be bottom again after them.
“We have to look at finishing the job though, about doing it right and I know the players are looking forward to the game.
“The plan is just to concentrate on this game and forget about the others coming up.
“If we beat Hull it would have a big impact on our season – it would be massive.
“If we are good and we perform at the level for the last few weeks, I’m sure we will do well.”
The game sees the return of former manager Steve Bruce to the Stadium of Light for the first time since he was sacked in December 2011.
But Poyet says he does not want to see the Tynesider become the focus of attention in a game where Sunderland have to be as professional and as focused as they can possibly be.
“It’s not nice when you go back to a former club and lose and I know Brucey won’t want to lose,” he shrugged.
“Sometimes though, we make these games bigger than they are.
“I don’t want it to be talking about revenge – I’m sure there are still people at the club Brucey will be pleased to see.
“There are former players who can score against you and you have to be wary of that but then sometimes they can be trying too hard – you just don’t know.
“All I want us do is concentrate on ourselves.”
Although Cattermole has returned to availability, striker Steven Fletcher is expected to sit the next couple of games out as he tries to recover from a persistent Achilles tendon injury.
And that is likely to increase the opportunity for England Under-21 international Connor Wickham to get playing time.
“ I hope Connor is ready,” he said.
“He’s maybe not expecting to play but he must realise that he could be called on to play a big part for us.
“He needs to be prepared and I hope he is because the way things are in the last few weeks, it has been a pleasure playing for Sunderland.”