Gary Rowell column - Sunderland must avenge 8-0 Southampton thrashing

Seb Larsson
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IN SUNDERLAND’S position, the last thing the players need is to be facing Southampton – the team that inflicted the biggest humiliation on them this season.

It’s inevitable that 8-0 scoreline will be brought up in the media and by all the pundits in the run-up to the game, so the players just have to accept it and deal with it.

As professionals, they’ve got to have the attitude that the game at St Mary’s is history now and if anything, use it as an incentive for revenge

As professionals, they’ve got to have the attitude that the game at St Mary’s is history now and if anything, use it as an incentive for revenge.

Southampton have had a remarkable season after being tipped by many to go down due to the upheaval and changes they had to make in the summer when they lost most of their best players and manager Mauricio Pochettino.

However, new boss Ronald Koeman has probably exceeded the expectations of even the staunchest Southampton fan by guiding his team to what could well be a Europa League position.

They’ve achieved that success built on a rock solid defence, having conceded just 26 goals, with only top-of-the-table Chelsea able to match that.

With Sunderland’s less than impressive goalscoring record, Dick Advocaat will have his work cut out to come up with a plan to break Southampton down, but if he doesn’t, it will be another nail in the coffin, with relegation becoming ever more realistic.

Seb Larsson will be available to Dick Advocaat again after his suspension and I would be surprised if he didn’t bring him straight back in, as he leads the way when it comes to pressing and closing down the opposition, and in doing that, sets the tone for his team-mates to follow.

Sunderland can’t afford another home performance like the recent defeats against Villa and Palace, where going a goal down saw a total collapse, with the players showing an alarming lack of belief that they could get back in the game.

Strength of character is needed now, especially at home, as that’s where the pressure is greatest and if they show that and compete for the full 90 minutes, the fans will be with them every step of the way.