Sunderland, six points adrift of safety, have reached the stage of the season where they simply must start winning games to stand any chance of staying up.
With just 11 games to go, there is little room left for mistakes with David Moyes’ squad teetering on the brink of playing Championship football next season.
We take a look at the five burning issues Moyes must address ahead of Sunderland’s game with Burnley at the Stadium of Light on Saturday:
1) Goals have worryingly dried up
At just the wrong time, Sunderland’s goal threat has dried up.
Since January 14, the Black Cats have managed just four goals – all of which came in the first half of the win over relegation rivals Crystal Palace.
Put that game to one side and Sunderland haven’t scored in six out of their last seven games in all competitions.
14-goal top scorer Jermain Defoe remains the biggest threat but needs help. Moyes must orchestrate a style that gets more bodies in the box and efforts on goal.
2) To throw Jan Kirchhoff straight back in?
The German is back in full training but has only played 64 minutes of Under-23 football ahead of the Burnley game.
Sunderland have missed his calmness and composure on the ball and ability to break up play and pick a pass but Moyes must weigh that up with throwing him straight back in after another lengthy spell out injured, having not played since December. A fine balancing act but with games quickly running out, Sunderland need their best players on the pitch.
3) Keep faith with the high-pressing game?
For 40 minutes, Sunderland played very well against Manchester City, surprising them with a high-pressing game that prevented them playing out from the back and putting them on the back foot.
Crucially, Sunderland couldn’t find a goal that their performance in the early stages warranted.
Against Burnley, Sunderland have to take the game to Sean Dyche’s side, who haven’t won a game away from home all season.
4) Can Cats turn home form around?
With home games against Burnley, Manchester United, West Ham United, AFC Bournemouth and Swansea City to come, results at the Stadium of Light will go a long way to determining the club’s top flight status.
Between January and May last season, Sunderland won four times on home soil on their way to safety.
In 2017, there has been some good home performances with gritty draws against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur but the last win in front of the home support was back in mid-December, the 1-0 win over Watford.
A big ask but win all their home games and Sunderland stand a good chance of staying up. It must start with three points against Burnley ahead of yet another two-week break.
5) If you don’t win, make sure you don’t lose
Under Sam Allardyce, Sunderland became hard to beat in the second half of last season even if it meant the Black Cats having to settle for a point at times.
Allardyce’s mantra was that they would all add up on the road to safety and he was proved correct.
Sunderland recorded 12 draws last season, this season they have only managed four.
Moyes wants five wins at least from the remaining 11 games but if they can’t win, then make sure they don’t lose. Every point could be crucial.