Vito Mannone admits each step on Sunderland’s quest “feels like a Champions League final” with so much riding on Premier League survival.
Sunderland have managed to handle the mental pressure of the drop battle over the last 10 days after a four point haul from encounters against Norwich and Arsenal have moved Sam Allardyce’s men out of the bottom three.
We’re doing things right - putting pressure on opponents, even ones like Arsenal which is never easyVito Mannone
With only a point separating Sunderland from second bottom Newcastle United, any trepidation could prove fatal for Sunderland’s hopes of remaining in the top flight.
But goalkeeper Mannone - who has registered a clean sheet in three of his last four games - says Sunderland’s players realise the magnitude of each game and are going for broke, regardless of the opposition.
“Every game feels like a Champions League final,” said the Italian.
“I know we’re fighting for the Premier League, but this is our Champions League really in our heads.
“We have to stay positive and wait for another final to come. Stoke next weekend is another opportunity to get three points.
“We’ve got the confidence now throughout the team that if we do the job right, we may get the chances to win games.”
Sunderland only moved out of the relegation zone last weekend on goal difference, yet psychologically, it ensured the Black Cats’ fate remains in their own hands.
Escaping the bottom three - even by such a thin margin - has also reinforced the message in the dressing room that Sunderland’s performances will take them to survival.
“Before Norwich, we were not in this position, so we’ve managed to turn it around,” added Mannone.
“I just can’t wait for the next game really.
“You can see all our heads are in the right direction.
“We stick to the game-plan that the manager gives us.
“We’re doing things right - putting pressure on opponents, even ones like Arsenal which is never easy.
“We are in front at the moment and we need to stay there.
“If we win our games, it’s not Norwich or Newcastle (who will stay up).”