With eight games of the Premier League campaign left, Sunderland’s next opponents West Bromwich Albion are safe in the knowledge they will be playing top flight football next season.
Black Cats striker Jermain Defoe admits teams that no longer have anything left to play for can ease off the gas in the final weeks of the campaign.
But the experienced 33-year-old insists Sunderland – two points adrift of safety – can take nothing for granted when Tony Pulis brings his 11th-placed Baggies side to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Defoe pulls no punches in describing the game as ‘massive’ and one Sam Allardyce’s side simply must win.
“West Brom are a tough side and have some good players. But I believe it is a game we can win if we do the basics right,” said Defoe.
“It won’t be easy, they have a way of playing and beat us 1-0 at their place earlier in the season, a game that we could have got a point from.
“The goal we conceded was disappointing but if we apply ourselves in the right way then this is a game we have to win. Being at home gives us that advantage.”
He added: “Teams that are safe and not really playing for anything, may be they take the foot off the gas a little bit. If that is the case, then for us it is good.
“But you never know to be honest because at the end of the day you have to be professional.
“May be that could help us but I don’t think we can think that way, we just have to go out and win the game.
“We have to start quickly and control the game like we did against Newcastle.
“It is a massive, massive game and one we have to win.”
With several of the first team squad currently away on international duty, the training pitches at the Academy of Light have been much quieter than usual over Easter.
Defoe notched his 12th league goal in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle and he is adamant Sunderland have the firepower needed to stay up.
Defoe, who scores a goal every 160 minutes, added: “Be solid and keep a clean sheet and I always believe we will score because we have players with that extra little bit of magic that can create something.
“I came here to score goals as goals win games, especially now as we need the points.
“In these next eight games, the manager said we need four wins and that is doable the way we are playing.
“We need to take each game as it comes and focus on that.
“Five home games, which is important, and we need to try and win all our home games,” added Defoe ahead of Sunderland’s first home game in over a month.