JOHN O’SHEA believes illness and injury will be more of an obstacle than fatigue in this weekend’s crunch clash with Norwich City.
Sunderland desperately need to emerge victorious against the Canaries on Saturday to keep their hopes of Premier League survival alive, yet their preparations have been less than ideal after a gruelling period of extra time in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup victory over Chelsea.
Captain O’Shea is confident that the euphoria and confidence gleaned from securing a place in the League Cup semi-finals will override any tiredness against 14th-placed Norwich.
But the Republic of Ireland international is more concerned by the niggling injuries and bouts of illness among Sunderland’s squad, with both Jack Colback and Steven Fletcher missing Tuesday’s game with a stomach virus.
O’Shea told the Echo: “Once you win the game, the extra-time is kind of forgotten about.
“If you go through 90 minutes, play extra-time and then lose the game, that’s when the mental side of it kicks in.
“But we got the win against a fantastic team and we have to move it on for Saturday.
“There’s a bit of a bug going round the squad and a few knocks and bruises, so we need to make sure we look after everyone and make sure we have a team ready for Saturday.”
While O’Shea was delighted with Sunderland’s comeback against Jose Mourinho’s men, the 32-year-old believes the visit of Norwich is a more important game than the Chelsea clash.
O’Shea realises that Sunderland’s cup heroics cannot distract from the relegation battle, with the Black Cats reaching a “now or never” stage of the campaign to claw back the five-point deficit with the safety mark.
The former Manchester United centre-half added: “To be honest, it won’t mean anything if we don’t get to the final or beat Norwich on Saturday. It’s that simple.
“It feels nice at the moment, but we know the reality of where we are in the league.
“Norwich is going to be a bigger game than Tuesday.
“It’s brilliant to beat Chelsea and you could see the reaction and camaraderie around the place when Ki Sung-Yeung scored.
“But we need to start picking up wins in the league. We have to take the momentum into the Norwich game.
“It’s no good turning it on in one-off occasions. If we can find that consistency in the league, we’ll slowly but surely climb up the table and that’s what we’re aiming to do.
“I think our performances have deserved a bit more at times, but we just need to put the ball in the back of the net.”