GUS Poyet is keeping fingers crossed that the fixture schedulers have not made Sunderland’s game against Cardiff City tomorrow too tough a challenge for his squad.
The Black Cats’ head coach is dismayed that the club is being asked to play two long-distance away games at opposite ends of the country in the space of 72 hours in the middle of a horrendously packed programme.
And the Uruguayan has admitted he is worried it might have an effect.
There were many who thought that Sunderland’s under-powered performance against Norwich City last weekend – another game against of the division’s lesser sides – was partially the result of the Wearsiders playing 120 minutes of cup football against Chelsea earlier in the week.
And Poyet, who agrees that Sunderland need to beat their relegation rivals to stay up, says it is a concern that his side have got so much travelling to do.
“I believe our season will come down to questions like: Can we beat the sides around us? Sides like Cardiff City?” he said.
“Whether it will happen on Saturday I don’t know – the fixtures compilers have hardly been kind to us in giving us an away trip on Boxing Day at Everton and then another one in Cardiff on the 28th.
“We have had to come down to Everton, go back to Sunderland and then almost straight away get ourselves to Wales – it is far from ideal.”
Poyet’s men have beaten four top-six sides this season – Chelsea (in the Capital One Cup), Newcastle, Manchester City and Everton – but the head coach says it is now essential his team do it against the poorer sides in the division.
“I have no explanation for how or why we are beating the best teams but not the rest,” he mused.
“I was so disappointed with the Norwich game the other day because we need better results from those games – and I think it is us, our fault, our problem.
“We can’t blame anybody else.
“The fact is we keep having opportunities against the teams around us, but we keep letting ourselves down – we don’t score from two yards or whatever.
“So it has to change, starting against Cardiff City and on the first against Aston Villa.
“It has to change – the mentality.
“No more excuses.
“I want to win a few games before the end of January, I have them in my mind and that is my aim and we have to go for it and see where we are by the end of January.
“We are a difficult team to beat, but we have to do it consistently.
“Against Everton, we believed.
“We had concentration and belief and a desire to do something special.
“Sometimes your strikers will win you a game, sometimes you need your keeper to be special and, against Everton, it’s probably safe to say Vito won us the game.”