Cuellar eyes Boro boost

Carlos Cuellar
Carlos Cuellar
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CARLOS Cuellar is convinced Sunderland’s rock-solid defensive foundations will provide the platform for a change of fortunes at the other end.

Summer signing Cuellar has been part of a back-line that has kept three clean sheets in their opening eight Premier League encounters – conceding just eight goals in those encounters. That tally is bettered only by Arsenal in the division.

But it is as an attacking force where the lowest scorers in the top flight have their problems after failing to test the opposition goalkeeper for the third successive game in Saturday’s goalless draw at Stoke.

Sunderland now turn their attentions to the Capital One Cup with Middlesbrough the visitors to the Stadium of Light tomorrow night, with a place in the quarter-finals of the competition up for grabs.

Cuellar (left) said: “It’s going to be a difficult one because it’s the cup and it’s a different to the league.

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on the cup because we want to get through.”

Spanish centre-half Cuellar is not concerned with the Black Cats’ lack of goals, believing that with the defence established, Sunderland’s forward options have some leeway to find their feet.

The game against Championship side Boro might just be a game to get them going.

“All the team are defending well together and we have to be happy with the performance at the back at Stoke,” he said.

“We were defending a lot of long balls and headers, and didn’t let them get a goal. Of course if you’re defending well, you’ve at least got a point and then we’ve got a lot of quality up front.

“I’m sure the opportunities will come. If we can keep keeping clean sheets, then the goals are going to come for sure.

“We tried to get the opportunities on Saturday. Sometimes we kept the ball for a long time to try to find some space – moving it from one side to the other.

“But they defended really well and they didn’t give us the chance to score from any crosses.”

Sunderland were again resolute as a defensive unit after neutralising the Potters’ attack.

Cuellar felt a point was a fair result at the Britannia Stadium in a predictably dull encounter between two draw specialists, which saw neither side mount any serious threat as an attacking force.

Steven Fletcher spurned Sunderland’s best opportunity on the counter-attack, while the Black Cats were indebted to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for blocking Robert Huth’s 85th-minute point-blank header.

“We knew what kind of game we were going to play before we went there,” said Cuellar. “They are probably the strongest team in the league in the air.

“They push you all the time, inside the area and they’re looking for their pace in behind.

“But we defended very well and afterwards we tried to play football.

“The pitch there isn’t the biggest and it’s hard because before you even get the ball, there’s one or two men with you. We tried and we had a few opportunities to score.

“But, in the end, I think a point for both teams was a fair result.”