SUNDERLAND tonight embark on the first of the ‘Big Three’ fixtures which will help define their season, says Gus Poyet.
The Black Cats face Stoke City at the Stadium of Light this evening, followed by Newcastle United on Saturday and Hull City the following weekend.
And Poyet says these three games mark a moment of destiny in Sunderland’s season which clarify exactly what sort of Premier League season the club will have in the remainder of the campaign.
“These three games are massive for us,” he told the Echo.
“So important, and starting with Stoke tonight.
“I think the next three games will mark the end of the season – depending on what we do in these next three games, will tell us what we face for the remainder of the campaign.
“And if we don’t do well in these next two games in four days, then the Hull one is going to absolutely huge for us.”
Poyet has no qualms about stating the importance of the trio of games, saying it is better to be wise before the event.
And he has told his players that he wants the very best out of them this evening to get the three-game mission off to a good start.
“I don’t like to call them cup finals,” he told the Echo. “I was asked a few weeks ago whether a certain game was a cup final and I said ‘no’ because it is not a phrase I like to use.
“But now we are in the moment of truth and I don’t mind what people call it because these are the games and the Stoke one is the first one and so it is the most important right now.”
Poyet says that his players need, in particular, to put behind them their indifferent home form and their indifferent form against sides in and around them in the bottom half of the table.
“It is time we won at home and put ourselves in a better situation,” he said.
“It has been a good revival for us in the last month and of course we have been going well in the cups but not winning at home since Newcastle in October.
“It is too long and one of the issues we need to pay attention to, is our home record.
“We know how strong Stoke are and what they can do. But we need to do better.
“We need to put the ball in the box with a bit more quality and we need to show what we can do in front of our home fans – I want to make the game a little more special for them.
“I know that sometimes it can be a mental battle. But when you are on the pitch, it is not in your head, it is just playing.
“You must play to the best of your ability and you must compete and if we do that then we have a good chance of starting these three games well.”