CARDIFF boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has billed next Sunday’s showdown against fellow Barclays Premier League relegation candidates Sunderland as “a proper cup final.”
Solskjaer’s team will head to the Stadium of Light with renewed hope of avoiding the drop after beating Southampton and drawing with Stoke.
Sunderland, though, can reflect on a draw at Manchester City and a stunning 2-1 win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their last two games, which underlines the size of Cardiff’s task.
Cardiff finish the season at home to Chelsea on May 11, but their Premier League fate is likely to be decided by successive games in the North East - Sunderland in seven days’ time, then Newcastle a week later.
“It is three weeks until Chelsea, and a lot can happen by then,” Solskjaer said.
“They could win the league, they could be in the Champions League final or they could be in Brazil in some of their heads at the World Cup. You never know.
“For us, we need these points more than some of these teams. Next weekend it is a proper cup final.
“If you talk about league games that mean the same for both teams, then that is us and Sunderland. Next weekend will be the same mental test for both.
“It is a massive game for us, and we will prepare as if it is the last game we will ever play.
“I think we will probably have to have five more (points) to give us a chance. I don’t think 34 points will be enough. 35 might be enough, and 36 I think will be enough.
“The players have come through some adversity. As a group, they are all fighting for their lives as Premier League players. They all want it, and every one of them is chipping in.”
If Cardiff manage to retain top-flight status, they will owe goalkeeper David Marshall a huge debt.
Scotland international Marshall, who has made more saves than any other Premier League keeper this season, was at his best again in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Stoke, highlighted by a late point-blank stop from Potters substitute Oussama Assaidi.
“We do keep him busy,” Solskjaer added. “(Stoke) was one of the less busy games he has had, and he showed the concentration levels by producing two fantastic saves.”
Asked if he would be in Solskjaer’s team of the season, the manager added: “Yes.
“I would pick Marshy if I could, every day of the week. In the league in his current form, yes (over any other goalkeeper in the league).”