PAOLO DI CANIO believes Aston Villa are approaching the last-chance saloon in their survival quest.
Villa’s breathing space with the relegation zone was reduced to two points after Wigan’s draw with Spurs on Saturday, with the Latics still boasting a game in hand after Paul Lambert’s side meet Sunderland tonight.
Should Villa fail to record a first win in three this evening, then their final games are daunting ones too, with a trip to fellow strugglers Norwich followed by the visit of Chelsea and a potentially crucial last-day trip to Wigan.
Although Di Canio is far from complacent about Sunderland’s position in the relegation scrap, he claims the pressure lies with the hosts at Villa Park tonight.
“They are under pressure more than us,” said head coach Di Canio. “There are not 20 games to go, only four.
“Even if we lose tonight, we will stay above them, and they have to go to Norwich and play at home against Chelsea, who beat them 8-0 in December.
“They are difficult games and then they play Wigan on the last day. It is very tough for them. I wouldn’t say this is their last chance, but it is nearly their last chance.
“For us, it is not the last chance. That doesn’t mean that we can relax – definitely not – but it does mean there is less pressure on us.
“If we go there with the right determination and work hard, I think we will get the win we need to stay up.”
Di Canio has identified Villa’s defensive deficiencies as an area which Sunderland can take advantage of tonight, as the Black Cats look to secure a third successive victory.
Lambert’s side have gone 18 games without keeping a clean sheet, with only Reading and Newcastle conceding more in the Premier League this season. “If you consider that Villa have conceded 63 goals already, it is not a very good defensive record,” added Di Canio.
“We will try to use Villa’s weaknesses in our favour to try to get a result. But one day they will stop giving easy goals away – I hope it is not tonight!
“We have studied Villa, identified their weaknesses and we will try to do everything we can to damage them. We have done very well in the last two games, but we have to carry on and not switch off even for an instant, because the main job is not done yet.”