PAOLO Di Canio insists his players will not be intimidated by Stoke City tonight as the Black Cats look to take a major step towards Premier League survival.
Victory at the Stadium of Light could lift the Black Cats as high as 11th in the Premier League table, which would be much more comfortable than the 17th position – one place above the relegation zone – which they currently occupy.
The Potters’ five-year stay in the Premier League has been based on direct football and a robust style. And many an opposition player has the bruises to prove that.
But Sunderland’s head coach says he has every confidence in his players’ ability to stand up and be counted at the Stadium of Light tonight.
“I’m not worried about Stoke’s physical presence,” he shrugged.
“That is just something you have to accept, you have to go through these situations.
“But people should not think we have not faced this already,
“Chelsea can be a physical side but we stood up to that well down there.
“Everton too are a physical side with big guys – many over six foot – but we handled that too.
“My players had a high intensity about them in those games and that meant we could deal with that challenge.
“We have to do the same again against Stoke City tonight and if we can do it to them like we have done before, we will be all right.”
Di Canio will take his players into this evening’s game still smarting at the 6-1 defeat against AstonVilla a week ago tonight.
And he will remind his players that another such damaging loss is to be avoided at all costs.
More than anything though he will send his team out with one mission only – get the victory which would almost certainly save Sunderland’s Premier League skins.
“We don’t want 0-0,” he said. “We want a win. If the game ends in a draw, we will accept it.
“If the game finishes 0-1 to them, then we will accept if it we have played well.
“But it is obvious we want to win.
“People might look at the statistics and suggest a draw but usually it doesn’t work out that way – look at our game against Villa for example where everyone was expecting a tight game.
“We are looking for a completely different performance from us from that game and we are looking to win against Stoke.”