Jack Ross says Plymouth Argyle pose a threat that belies their lowly position in the League One table.
Sunderland travel to Home Park on Saturday with Derek Adams and his team slowly turning the corner.
They began the season in woeful form but have chalked up 3-1 and 4-1 wins in their last two league games.
“I know Derek to a degree personally and he’s somebody who has enjoyed a long, consistent period of good times at Plymouth,” Ross said.
“I’m pleased that he’s managed to turn around some of the perhaps unjustified criticism he’s been recieving.
“So it’s a tough game for us, it happens so often in this league.
“We had it a little while ago conversely where people were pointing to the fact that we hadn’t played many teams in the top half, and yet now we have. Some of those teams, Luton away, Coventry away, people thought they weren’t fantastic results but they look better no.
“Plymouth away earlier in the season people might have thought was an easy game but all of a sudden it looks more difficult.”
Ross, however, is expecting an open game that could suit his Black Cats side.
“To Derek’s credit, even when they were having a difficult spell earlier, they continued to play in an expansive way,” he said.
“I often think that suits us better. It means they can trouble you in forward areas and the goals they’ve scored in their last two games highlight that, but equally it hopefully makes the park big and hopefully we can take advantage of that.
“It should be an open match and that should suit us.”
Ross is also well aware of the quality in Plymouth’s ranks, having played with their star forward.
Graham Carey scored 16 goals and produced 13 assists last season, and player with Ross during his time in Scotland.
“A player who has made a huge contribution during Derek’s time in charge is Graham Carey,” Ross said.
“Both John Potter and I played with Graham.
“Initially in his loan spell from Celtic, at which time I was on my way out from the game.
“He went back there for a second spell where John played with him. So we know the quality he possesses, particularly on his left foot.
“If you look at his record in terms of goals and assists over the years, he’s made a massive contribution.”