Yann M’Vila says Sunderland have to make home advantage count against Chelsea and Everton in what promises to be a nerve-shredding final week of the season.
The last-gasp equaliser from top scorer Jermain Defoe at Stoke City made a notable difference to Sunderland’s survival bid, even if Newcastle United leapfrogged the Black Cats to move out of the drop zone thanks to their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Due to Sunderland’s superior goal difference over the Magpies, if Sam Allardyce’s men record seven points from the last three games, then they will finish above Newcastle, while Norwich would need to take maximum points from their run-in.
The first two chapters of what promises to be a dramatic tale in the final week of the season are at the Stadium of Light, which has not been a particularly happy hunting ground for Sunderland after just four victories on home turf this year.
But midfielder M’Vila is targeting back-to-back wins against Chelsea on Saturday and then Everton next week, to put Sunderland in pole position for survival heading into the final day.
M’Vila said: “We can’t be worrying about Newcastle winning.
“We’ve got three games left against Chelsea, Everton and Watford. Two of those are at home, where our supporters will be as good as they have been all season.
“We need to see if we can get six points against Chelsea and Everton and that will put us into a great position.
“We need to look to win both, not just one.
“Chelsea have had a difficult season, but they’ve still got some extraordinary players like Oscar, (Eden) Hazard and Pedro.
“We have to produce a very solid performance.”
Boss Allardyce blamed nerves for Sunderland’s performance at Stoke, where the Black Cats produced a display which was as poor as they have been since the turn of the year.
The players who emerged from the dressing room didn’t necessarily agree with that theory, even if there was an acknowledgement that the performance was well below-par.
But there was certainly a combination of relief and delight that Defoe’s 14th of the season kept Sunderland just a point behind their fourth bottom neighbours.
“You can definitely say that it’s a very, very big point,” added M’Vila.
“We had a couple of occasions to score in the second half, but we fought until the very last second to get a goal and that was our reward.
“I think we deserved it because of how hard we worked over the course of the game.
“I don’t know why we didn’t play as well as previous weeks.
“Maybe because it’s a hostile atmosphere in a small ground, a bit like Bournemouth.
“Stoke have a lot of energy and physicality too, so maybe it took us a while to adapt to that.
“But it was a good point in the end. Now we just have to look to win these last games. That’s it.”