Ex-Chelsea defender backs Sunderland to handle the drop fight nerves

Patrick van Aanholt.
Patrick van Aanholt.
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Patrick van Aanholt insists Sunderland can handle the pressure against his former club Chelsea this weekend, as the Black Cats bid to remain on Newcastle’s coat-tails.

Despite Chelsea’s feeble defence of their Premier League title this season, Guus Hiddink’s side remain packed with world class players and inadvertently secured Leicester City’s first ever league championship when they came from behind to draw 2-2 with Spurs on Monday nights.

If Sunderland are to record their first Stadium of Light win since February this weekend, Sam Allardyce’s men will need to perform significantly better than they did in last Saturday’s draw at Stoke where the Black Cats boss admitted his side appeared to be affected by anxiety.

But left-back van Aanholt – who made eight first-team appearances after coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge – insists Sunderland’s mentality isn’t an issue, as they attempt to prevent the one-gap with fourth bottom Newcastle increasing.

Van Aanholt told the Echo: “No, we were not nervous (at Stoke). We had the same mentality as we’ve had in previous weeks.

“We got the point in the end which is fine because it’s still in our hands.

“We’ve still got a game in hand on Newcastle, so we just have to focus on ourselves.

“We just have to focus on getting the three points against Chelsea.

“Chelsea haven’t had the best season, but I’m sure they will be back next season and be challenging at the top of the league.

“But our fans have been outstanding all season, so with that home support, we can do something.”

However, Van Aanholt does admit Sunderland were below par at Stoke, with the Dutch international confessing that his own display could have been better.

Yet Sunderland got out of jail thanks to Player of the Year Jermain Defoe’s stoppage time penalty and the 14-goal top scorer remains the talisman for the club’s hopes of avoiding the drop.

“Jermain is sharp in the box and he showed it again at Stoke,” added van Aanholt.

“All through his career he’s scored goals everywhere he’s been.

“You know if you give him chances, then he’s going to get goals.

“It could be massive for us to get that draw at Stoke. At least we got a point and we didn’t lose.

“We went there to get the win, but if you can’t win, then don’t lose and we managed to do that.

“It wasn’t our best performance, even though we tried to do our best.

“We got forward well a couple of times down the left-hand side, but I felt that my shots let me down and I should have passed it to Wahbi (Khazri) a couple of times.

“But we tried and in the end we finally got the penalty that we deserved.”