Max Power sets Sunderland a top two target as he reveals set-piece plans ahead of MK Dons
In the short-term, Sunderland will face few bigger games than this.
In front of an expectant home crowd, the pressure will be on the Black Cats from the off as they face MK Dons.
That’s nothing new, of course. Jack Ross’ side are heavy favourites for most games in the third tier and have made no secret of the fact the expectation this season is promotion.
For that reason, victory over Paul Tisdale’s side is crucial - especially after back-to-back league draws.
That fact isn’t lost on Max Power, who is keen to ensure the side remain grounded through any dips in form.
And while setting a target of reaching the top two as quickly as possible, the Sunderland midfielder has reminded supporters that he and his teammates are ‘only human’.
“You're always going to have outside noise when you play for a club of this stature, especially in this division,” said Power.
“We don't get carried away with situations. If you lose or draw it's about staying level-headed all the time.
“Sheffield United went away to Everton on the weekend, had a great win and then they're knocked out of cup three days later, this is football.
“Teams lose games, teams draw games. We're only human.
“We've had a good start to the season but we all want to be in the top two as quickly as possible. We're not at the moment but we'll strive to do so.
“We know every result for Sunderland gets scrutinised and as players we've got to deal with that.
“We're a close-knit group and everyone's fighting for each other.
“We know what the objective is. We can enjoy the occasion but the important game is Saturday.”
Power netted his first of the season in the midweek win over the Blades and will be targeting another start against the Dons this afternoon.
His fine strike - which has since been nominated for the competition’s goal of the round - came from another well-rehearsed set-piece routine.
It’s an area Power feels could yield more benefits for the Black Cats moving forward.
“It's an opportunity to score and if we can add more set-piece goals to our game then great,” he admitted.
“If not, we'll continue to work away at them.
“We watch other teams thoroughly and we look for weaknesses.
“My shot didn't quite go as planned but it was a good night.
“The staff lead the set-piece work. They work tirelessly and go into large details to give us the best chance to win games.”
Power isn’t the only player hoping to have staked a claim for a starting spot in midweek - with a number of fringe players having caught the eye at Bramall Lane.
They include new signings Laurens De Bock and Joel Lynch, who impressed at the back after completing their first starts for the Black Cats.
And Power was impressed with their contribution in South Yorkshire - and a first clean sheet of the campaign.
“The pleasing thing is the clean sheet,” he added.
“And I thought the two lads who came into the side, Lynchy and Bocky, have done brilliantly and they've staked their claim to stay in the team, that's how these evenings tend to go.
“It's about opportunities and everyone who's played has given a good account of themselves.
“We're talking about good players. Lynchy's had a good career, he's always been at Championship level and Bocky has come from Leeds.
“These are good players so it's about getting them up to match fitness as soon as we can and as you could see, they'll be very good additions as a team.”
While Sunderland’s cup run could be a seen as a distraction from the ultimate ambition of securing a return to the Championship, Power insists sustained involvement in the Carabao Cup can aid the club.
But the midfielder won’t get carried away by another Premier League scalp, with the focus quickly shifting back to the third tier.
“Of course it can [help],” he said.
“We've only lost one game this season. We've had a disappointing week last week in terms of drawing two games but we could have quite easily won both so we're not too far away.
“Playing for Sunderland in League One you're expected to win every week, which is fine by me.
“We are a good side. The priority for us has been getting out of League One this season but these nights, these occasions, are great for players to come and test yourself against Premier League opposition.
“That's two out of two now. Everyone worked tirelessly for us and other than the first ten minutes which we started a bit shaky as we took time to get used to the style and formation of Sheffield United.
“Once we got to grips with that I thought we limited them to very few opportunities and possibly could have got a few more ourselves.
“When you're playing against players who are sometimes not playing week in, week out in the league at that time tiredness can kick in.
“Our priority is to get out of the division so it's important we don't get too low when results don't go our way and we won't get carried away by Wednesday because we know the important game is MK Dons on Saturday.”