Sunderland are set for an early and unwelcome reminder of their capitulation at Turf Moor in the third round of the FA Cup tomorrow afternoon.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley travel to the Stadium of Light just a week after Andre Gray’s hat-trick secured an emphatic 4-1 win.
The Sunderland team came in for stinging critcism from both fans and the manager David Moyes but responded with a battling 2-2 draw against Liverpool on Monday.
Captain John O’Shea has said that point showed Sunderland have the resolve needed to keep landing the results needed to pull away from trouble once more. He did concede, however, that his side must improve their defending from set-pieces.
Sunderland kept Jurgen Klopp’s team at bay from open play impressively but shot themselves in the foot by losing their concentration at two corners, leaving Daniel Sturridge and Sadio Mane free at the back post to put the Reds in the lead.
O’Shea said: “We spoke at half-time time about making sure it wasn’t a moral victory, you know the old ‘we played all right but we got beaten’.
“When we went 2-1 down, we had that feeling again.
“We conceded another set-piece goal and that’s something we are going to have to look at.
“Twice they scored from the second contact – that’s something we need to improve on. We had been getting better at that [defending set-pieces].”
The 35-year-old has admitted that the defensive errors at Turf Moor are still fresh in the memory. O’Shea himself was involved in a frustrating opener as he and Papy Djilibodji challenged for the same long ball on the halfway line, Gray racing clear to put the hosts ahead.
The Black Cats never really recovered from losing Lamine Kone in the first half, the centre-half crashing into the advertising hoardings.
Kone will be missing for the next month on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Ivory Coast, but O’Shea is confident he and Djilibodji showed they can cope in his absence.
O’Shea also pointed to the excellent attacking display from his team-mates as cause for optimism.
“The goals we gave away at Burnley were the thing which disappointed us,” added the Irishman.
“But we said we had to put it out of our minds and Liverpool was a nice game for us to get something out of.
“It was a clear-cut penalty, it was good play from the lads up front again, Adnan, Fabio and, of course, Jermain tucking away those penalties.
“It was good to see.”
The veteran centre-half admitted that Moyes is likely to ring the changes for the Burnley clash, with an already weakened squad unable to cope with many more injuries. However, he also underlined the need to ensure that Sunderland put in a good performance to underline recent improvements.
He said: “Obviously the Premier League is the most important, but also there is the confidence winning games makes.
“That’s the beauty of being a player, we just go on the field and training ground, they are our jobs. Those decisions are down to the manager.”