GUS POYET will ring the changes for the final game of the season after insisting Sunderland’s supporting cast deserve an opportunity.
Poyet has named an unchanged starting XI for the last five matches – a run which has seen Sunderland take 13 points out of a possible 15 to secure a remarkable escape from the jaws of relegation.
But, with the Black Cats’ Premier League future now assured, Poyet will introduce fresh legs for Sunday’s season finale against Swansea, who similarly have nothing left to play for.
Midfield pair Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson are both struggling with knocks, with the latter playing through the pain over the last few weeks.
But Poyet also wants to give those on the fringes a chance to feel a part of Sunderland’s successful survival charge, with the likes of Oscar Ustari, Liam Bridcutt, Jozy Altidore, Emanuele Giaccherini and Phil Bardsley all in contention to face the Swans.
Poyet said: “We are not going to do anything crazy, but there are two, three, maybe four players who deserve to play. They have to play.
“They’ve been supporting the team every day and they need to finish the season with a feeling that they’ve played their part.
“This has not only been achieved by the 11 on the pitch. It’s achieved every day in training with the 26 or 27 players who are training every day.
“Seb Larsson has been playing with pain everywhere.
“And the way Lee Cattermole played the game on Wednesday, he’s going to be dead for two days!”
A fifth successive Premier League victory would take Sunderland above 13th-placed Swansea, with the Black Cats potentially rising as high as 12th, if West Ham fail to win at champions-elect Manchester City.
But Sunderland have already achieved their principal aim of remaining in the Premier League and Poyet expects a party atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.
“This place, with 45,000, is a difficult place for anyone, but when you connect with them, it becomes a little bit harder,” he added.
“They deserve this. It’s been a hard season.
“I think Sunday is going to be a special day. I hope it’s sunny because they deserve a nice day celebrating what we have achieved.”
More than 40,000 tickets have already been sold for this weekend’s game, with the club advising supporters to secure their seats in advance.
Tickets are priced at £27 for adults, £23 for over-65s and £12 for under-16s.
The Stadium of Light ticket office is open until 5.30pm today and 10am to 1pm tomorrow.
* Don’t miss tomorrow’s online Football Echo – the last edition of the season. It’s available from around 6.45pm.