Sunderland’s Under-21 side will look to maintain their title challenge when they face Liverpool tomorrow.
Boss Andy Welsh is delighted with his side’s progress this year, with his young charges passing every ‘test’ they have faced.
Welsh’s side are second, two points behind leaders Manchester United, ahead of Sunday’s game against Liverpool at Chester FC’s Lookers Vauxhall Stadium (KO noon).
“We are near the top of the league and there to be shot at,” Welsh told the Echo.
“Nobody is taking us lightly.
“Teams are putting their best players out against us, but for the young players’ development that is what the Premier League is about.
“You have to stay in games and win games and these lads have done that and are continuing to do that – there is no reason why we can’t continue to do that.
“Teams put strong teams out against us and that is good to test our players and they are coming through those tests.”
Sunderland will be looking for back-to-back wins after Mikael Mandron’s double guided the young Black Cats to a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough on Monday.
Welsh said: “Against Middlesbrough it was important to score early.
“We did a lot of work in training in the attacking third in terms of getting shots off and bodies in the box.
“Against Boro we were a lot faster and quicker and played with far more intensity in the final third.
“We missed too many chances, but we at least played with more risk and could have scored more than we did in the end.”
Michael Beale’s Liverpool side will be looking to bounce back from a 3-0 home defeat against Manchester City.
The game was originally due to be played on Monday, but it has been brought forward a day.