JOHN O’SHEA has warned Sunderland that they cannot afford to shut up shop in attempting to harness the Premier League’s top scorers.
League leaders Manchester City visit the Stadium of Light on Sunday looking to continue their prolific form in front of goal after netting a staggering 53 goals in the opening 18 top flight games.
West Brom proved in Boxing Day’s stalemate at the Hawthorns that Roberto Mancini’s men can be frustrated after the Baggies became the first team to keep a clean sheet against City so far this season.
But Sunderland defender O’Shea believes the Black Cats must offer an attacking threat, as well as focusing on keeping City’s all-star forward line under wraps.
O’Shea said: “City are incredibly strong and attacking-wise, they have great options with the likes of (Sergio) Aguero, (Mario) Balotelli (pictured below) and (Edin) Dzeko.
“It shows how much strength in depth they have got that they can afford to leave a player of the quality of Carlos Tevez out of the first team picture.
“But these are the kind of players you look forward to taking on and testing yourself against.
“West Brom showed that it is possible to take points off City by stopping them scoring. They went into it with two solid banks of four and got men behind the ball, but they still needed a fair old slice of luck to come away with a point.
“I think that if we approach the game against City like that, we’ll be in for a long afternoon!
“We’ve shown in the last few matches that we are capable of getting goals and I think we will have to try to cause City some problems rather than just keep the door shut at the back.
“It is going to be very tough, but at the moment we are confident of giving any team a game at home.”
City’s five-point advantage at the Premier League summit has been reduced to superior goal difference over recent weeks and they could lose top spot tomorrow when fierce rivals Man United host basement boys Blackburn.
But ex-Old Trafford man O’Shea believes the title race will go down to the wire, particularly if City strengthen further in the January transfer window.
“City are giving Man United a run for their money at the top of the table, there’s no doubt about that,” said the 30-year-old. “I expect the two of them to fight it out over the rest of the season. United are course and distance winners, but City have emerged as real contenders and, with the kind of financial backing they have now got, I think they will continue to challenge at the top for years to come.”
Sunderland head into New Year’s Day in confident mood though after cruelly being denied back-to-back wins against Everton on Monday after referee Howard Webb wrongly-awarded the Toffees a second half spot-kick.
O’Shea, likely to start at centre-half tomorrow with Titus Bramble struggling through injury, added: “To be honest, we should have picked up all three points against Everton. The bad penalty decision cost us, but we shouldn’t let that take away from the performance.
“If it hadn’t been for that penalty, we would have had back-to-back wins to take into the Man City game and we would have been two or three places higher up the table.
“So things have started to turn for us and we have to try to keep it going.”