GUS Poyet says Sunderland’s game against Fulham tomorrow might not carry the same importance as a cup final, but he insists it is not far off!
The Black Cats’ head coach says the significance of this weekend’s game against Fulham at Craven Cottage cannot be underestimated after Sunderland passed up the opportunity to punish fellow strugglers Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light on New Year’s Day.
And he reckons that if Sunderland’s “easier” second half of the season set of fixtures are to prove to be just that, then the Wearsiders cannot afford a further slip-up against the likes of Fulham, who sit five points and four places above them.
Poyet said: “I talk to a lot of people who say we are going to do well in the second half of the season because we are playing so many teams at home who are in the bottom half of the table.
“But we haven’t beaten one of them yet and it is absolutely vital that we start doing that now.
“That’s why the Fuham game is such a massive game for us.
“They have struggled like we have struggled, even though they are a few points higher in the table than us.
“That’s a gap, though, that we can almost close if we win this weekend and the importance of the game is obvious because we really need to start winning.
“We’re not quite at the stage where we say that every game remaining is like a cup final, but it is getting close, so you could say that the Fulham game is a semi-final!
“This game is one which can change our season and I’m looking forward to it.”
Poyet says that Sunderland have to be on their guard against a Fulham side who are traditionally strong on home turf and have players like Dimitar Berbatov and former Sunderland striker Darren Bent who can change a game in an instant.
But the Uruguayan wants Sunderland to be disciplined and utterly focused on the job of getting another away win.
“Darren Bent could have one of those games where everything he hits goes in – that’s football,” said Poyet.
“But we have to concentrate on doing our jobs right and being aware from the very start that we have to be on our game.
“Normally, Fulham start very well at home, they start fast and put pressure on you.
“But no team can control a game all the time if you are good enough yourself.
“So we need to defend well and make the most of our goalscoring chances.
“Fulham will come at us, I’m sure they will, but that will suit us if we can soak up that pressure.
“The first few minutes are important, but it is a great opportunity.
“We haven’t had that many games where we’ve felt confident and seen a game as a real opportunity – so let’s take this one.”