Preston North End boss Alex Neil is looking for a fast start from his men in tomorrow’s Sky Bet Championship visit to the Stadium of Light.
The Deepdale men are still hoping to push for a play-off place, but they desperately need all three points against bottom club Sunderland.
The sides drew 2-2 in an entertaining game at Preston back in September, and former Norwich and Hamilton manager Neil expects another testing battle, despite the plight of Chris Coleman’s Black Cats.
Neil told iFollow PNE: “It was tough against Sunderland earlier on in the season. I think that there was a lot of emotion that day – obviously Simon (Grayson) and Aiden (McGeady) were coming back for the first time since they left.
“I think Sunderland were naturally always going to raise their game.
“We went ahead in the game back in September and probably should have kept the lead.
“We didn’t and then the game ended in a draw. Despite their position in the league at the moment, I am expecting an equally tough game.
“I think there’s a lot pressure coming into Saturday’s game at Sunderland.
“The fans will be nervous and agitated because they think their team should be doing better and we’ve got to take advantage of that.
“We’ve got to make sure we go and start the game really well, put them on the back foot, agitate the fans because that’s part and parcel of it and then hopefully try and go on, use that to our advantage and try and win the game.”
Neil spoke of the importance of the trip north for his men.
“We’ve got our own ambitions that we want to try and achieve and we’re fighting to try and achieve that,” he said.
“Every game between now and the end of the season is going to be really hard fought and I don’t think the Sunderland match will be any different.
“We’ve got to look at and understand our opponents’ motivation coming into a game.
“If they’re desperate for the points, for whatever reason, we’ve got to understand that this isn’t a game where they’ve got nothing to play for.
“I think these type of teams are really dangerous to play against, they need the points, we also need the points, so you’re just hoping in terms of playing under pressure that we can handle that and hopefully go out and perform.
“We’ve got a determination and a willingness in this squad, which, if I’m honest, is unparalleled to what I’ve been used to before.
“What we’ve got to understand is how well we played against Fulham (in last week’s last-gasp 2-1 home loss), who are a really good side.
“The margins in which we lost the game were so small. We switched off for a second and they beat us off the back of that.
“So I think there’s plenty of positives to take from that game and we can use them positives to go into the next game and perform as well as we have been doing recently because we’ve been excellent.”