Poyet - Burnley is crunch game in Sunderland’s season

Jermaine Defoe in action for Sunderland against Fulham. Picture by FRANK REID
Jermaine Defoe in action for Sunderland against Fulham. Picture by FRANK REID
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GUS POYET admits next weekend’s crunch relegation clash against Burnley is a make-or-break moment in Sunderland’s season.

Sunderland’s troubles at the Stadium of Light continued yesterday when they failed to get the better of Championship Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round, leaving the Black Cats with just two wins in all competitions on their own patch this season.

But Sunderland need to produce a stark turnaround in their fortunes at home over the next month, with relegation rivals Burnley, QPR and West Brom visiting Wearside in three of the next four Premier League outings.

Head coach Poyet needs no reminding about the magnitude of next Saturday’s visit of Burnley - who only lie below Sunderland on goal difference.

“There are moments in the season where you have turning points and the Burnley game is one of them, so it’s an important week for us,” said Poyet.

“The idea now is to first analyse the last two games - Tottenham and this one (Fulham) check really well if it’s the way we want to go forward, train it, whatever we are going to do, next week and play first and foremost Burnley and win.

“We need to win.”

Poyet has opted for a 3-5-2 formation in the last two games to accommodate new signing Jermain Defoe, yet Sunderland have still struggled for creativity.

That wasn’t helped by defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt replacing the injured Adam Johnson against Fulham, with Poyet’s plan to introduce Emanuele Giaccherini or Ricky Alvarez for the last half-hour going awry when Jack Rodwell was sent off.

But Poyet accepts that Sunderland have to provide more service to Defoe, although the England international was denied a goal on his home debut by three smart saves from Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli

“Jermain will get into those positions, but it’s up to us,” added Poyet.

“If you don’t really push into wide areas or produce, like in the first half, he’s not going to have the chances.

“I think that’s why at the end, there was more and more (chances) because Patrick (van Aanholt) crossed the ball more in the last 20 minutes than in the whole game.

“Billy Jones and Will Buckley the same in the second half.

“That helps.

“But a striker needs the ball in the box.”