GUS Poyet has bemoaned Sunderland’s lack of preparation time for tomorrow’s derby at St James’s Park.
The Black Cats have 24 hours fewer than Newcastle United to recover from their midweek exertions – Sunderland beating Stoke on Wednesday while the Magpies drew at Norwich the night before.
But Poyet says that is just one more challenge to factor into a hugely demanding couple of months for his squad, who continue to battle away on three fronts – Capital One Cup, FA Cup and Premier League.
“Probably the Tuesday this week was the worst for me,” revealed the Uruguayan. “I would have been watching Newcastle and getting our strategy and tactics worked out.
“Instead we were training and it was the transfer window.
“Friday’s training therefore will be so important for the game because it’s the only proper time that the team will have to be together before playing a derby.
“We should have been playing the Stoke game on Tuesday, as everyone knows – instead everything gets changed and then we pay the price.”
Poyet’s players have gone through the mill in terms of their workload.
By the time tomorrow’s game is over, Sunderland will have played 17 games in just nine weeks.
But Poyet says the Black Cats will still be focused for the derby and hell-bent on keeping up their recent good form.
Sunderland have lost only one of their last eight Premier League games and the midweek win over Stoke was enough to take the club out of the bottom three for the first time since August.
Poyet has already spoken of how important it is that Sunderland maintain that momentum right now.
And he’s hoping the three-match challenge the Wearsiders are in the midst of will be the catalyst for a kick towards mid-table safety.
“I always saw the Stoke, Newcastle and Hull games as three massive games which would tell us what sort of season we’d be facing by the time they were played,” Poyet told the Echo.
“It was always going to be the case of if we did well against Stoke, it would take some of the pressure off us in the other two games.
“And if we can do well against Newcastle now it will make it easier against Hull.
“It is all about keeping going the good run we’ve had.
“The players know that, and they’ve bought into that, and you can see how hard they are working to stay in games and get something from them.
”The more points we pick up regularly, the better our confidence gets.”
* Don’t miss tomorrow’s derby special Football Echo – it’s online from around 7pm with the biggest and best coverage of the big day