IF SUNDERLAND are to pull off the great escape, they need wins and it doesn’t matter how they get them or where they come from.
With the busy Christmas programme upon us, away games at Everton and Cardiff in the space of three days will be a big test for the squad.
The two games have a different look to them, with one against a team looking to gatecrash the top four, and the other against a newly-promoted team with problems, who I’m sure will happily settle for a place outside the bottom three at the season’s end.
Today sees us go to Goodison Park, which has never been a lucky ground for us, to face an Everton team that new manager Roberto Martinez has rejuvenated and improved.
They lost a big player in the summer when Marouane Fellaini left for Old Trafford, but no manager in the Premier League has used the loan system better than Martinez and the captures of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deulofeu have more than made up for the departure of the Belgian.
The emergence of Ross Barkley has been a huge bonus too and overall they are a much better team than they were last season.
Everton are unbeaten at home so far during the calendar year and that underlines how difficult this game will be, so on paper, our second game during the festive season against Cardiff looks the easier of the two.
All is not well at Cardiff with the relationship between the manager, Malky Mackay, and the owner Vincent Tan, almost at breaking point.
That has got to be destabilising for their club and rarely ends well.
Former Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell has scored some important goals for Cardiff, but they don’t have anywhere near the threat that Everton will pose.
Of the two fixtures, the game in Wales will be the one Gus Poyet is likely to expect points from.