Sam Allardyce says Sunderland MUST remain unbeaten before another enforced two-week break.
The Black Cats, fresh from their 1-0 defeat to West Ham United, host Crystal Palace at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday before a difficult trip to Southampton on Saturday.
Sunderland then have an extended break after their home game against Everton a week on Saturday was postponed due to the Toffees' ongoing involvement in the FA Cup.
And Allardyce says it is imperative his side pick up four points before that break if they are to remain in touch with their relegation rivals at the foot of the Premier League.
"We have now made a massive pressure game for ourselves on Tuesday against Palace," said Allardyce.
"We then play Southampton away and we really have to pick points up from both of those games because after that we don't play for two weeks as we should be playing Everton.
"That means other Premier League teams around us will play and if they win then that gap gets even greater and more and more pressure comes on us.
"The next two games has to deliver at least four points.
"Hopefully we can get more but we have put more pressure on ourselves."
The Black Cats boss spent four years as Hammers boss before leaving in the summer after his contract was not renewed.
Allardyce helped West Ham gain promotion back to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs in 2012 and insists he enjoyed his spell at the club despite falling out with Hammers fans last season.
On his return to the club, Allardyce said: "Jermain Defoe got more stick than me!
"I'm not sure why that was but I had four years here, four very good years.
"I have been a part of them going into the new stadium and being a Premier League football club, my four years here was successful and I enjoyed my time here.
"To see it for the last time, it would have been nice to come away with a result in the position we are in but yes I am a part of the history of West Ham United.
"I saw [co-chairman] David Gold before the game, had a chat with him, he is looking very well.
"I saw a lot of the lads and the backroom staff and it was great to see them again.
"The disappointment for me is I am sat here with no points. My job is with Sunderland and trying to get them out of trouble.
"This game is over and we move on."