Chris Coleman has warned his Sunderland players of the threat posed by a strong and powerful Preston North End side chasing a play-off spot.
Alex Neil’s side are ninth in the Sky Bet Championship, four points adrift of Middlesbrough in the final play-off position.
Both sides are desperate for three points at the Stadium of Light this afternoon – for very different reasons.
Sunderland remain rooted to the foot of the league, five points adrift with just nine games left to save their season.
“Preston have made a real fist of it this year,” said Coleman.
“Physically they are strong, they have pace and power in the team. They will come into the game with pressure but for the right reasons.
“It will be a tough game and anything can happen.
“They will know it will be a tough game for them as well as us, let’s see where we end up at 5pm.
“We can’t wait until the next game, it has to be this one. It can happen, in the space of 90 minutes it can be much different.”
PNE chief Neil admits Coleman is facing a tough challenge to keep the Black Cats up and has highlighted some of the key issues facing the Sunderland boss.
“Sometimes you need to turn over the players, you need to strip it back and start again,” said Neil.
“Sometimes when you go in as a manager, problems can continue and can’t be resolved for six months or even a year.
“It can be that you need to get guys out of the door to start afresh and start building.
“The problem any manager going into Sunderland has had is the fact many players are the same.
“I would think Chris will have a good idea of what he thinks he needs and what he would like to try and achieve.
“They have to get results between now and the end of the season to stay in this league.
“If Sunderland manage to do that, Chris can go and build for next season. But getting there at the end of the season looks like being a tough one.”