PAOLO Di Canio has spoken of his admiration for Sunderland’s visitors tomorrow, sixth-placed Everton.
But the Black Cats’ new head coach is confident his team can pose a real threat to the Merseysiders’ lingering hopes of a top-four finish.
Goodison boss David Moyes has suggested his team will need to win all five of their remaining games, starting against Sunderland, if they are to have realistic hopes of finishing in a Champions League spot.
But while Di Canio was quick to acknowledge the quality of the Toffees, he was also swift to point out that he is relishing the challenge of ending Sunderland’s decade-long Everton jinx.
He said: “You are talking about one of the best sides in the league and a side which has been one of the best for many years now.
“I like the way they play, thanks to their manager David Moyes, who is one of the best managers in this league.
“They are a solid team, physically strong – their size is something we have to concern ourselves about because they have four players who are well over 6ft tall – and they have quality.
“So it is a tough team to play against, but we are happy to be playing against them because you enjoy playing the top teams in this league and it will be a good challenge for us.”
On his arrival at Sunderland at the start of the month, Di Canio vowed to send his side out in search of goals – and his two games in charge so far have yielded four of them.
But he knows that scoring tomorrow will be a difficult task against one of the meanest defences in the division – a defence which comes into the game on the back of keeping goal-happy Arsenal quiet at the Emirates on Tuesday night.
“They are such a solid team and you got a perfect example of that against Arsenal,” said Di Canio, who has studied video of that game in depth.
“Not only do they manage to be defensively solid and strong, but they also counter really well when they have the ball – they get bodies forward quickly in support.
“So they play very effective football – they play directly and with quality.
“But we have looked at them thoroughly and think there might be two or three situations in which we can damage them.
“So, it will be a difficult game to play but also a good opportunity.
“We are in a good place mentally and we are coming off the back of a great result and going into a home game where our fans will be right behind us.
“It’s a game we should all look forward to, but we have to be focused and we have to do our jobs right.”