GUS Poyet has set his players the challenge of winning FIVE more games this season in order to save their Premier League skins.
Many top managers are reluctant to create press by setting their squad points targets, but the Uruguayan says Sunderland should be good enough to win five of their last 12 games, which would give them 39 points and almost certainly save the club from relegation.
“We’ve done alright so far,” said Poyet, who took charge in October when Sunderland had just one point on the board, after seven matches.
“We’ve got 23 points from 19 games and if we had done that over the course of the whole season, we would be comfortably safe.
“So we have improved over the course of the season, and that give us hope that we can win five out of our last 12 games.
“I have been told we might stay up with 33 or 34 points, but that’s not what I’m interested in – I want those five wins for us to get to 39 points.
“If we can do that, I’m happy to analyse myself and feel that I’ve done a decent job.
“I came in when we were rock bottom of the Premier League, with one point from seven games, and 39 points I would see as an excellent return – I would have snapped your hands off for it when I first arrived.”
Sunderland have relegation six-pointers this weekend and next – Crystal Palace come to the Stadium of Light tomorrow and the Black Cats take on Norwich at Carrow Road next Saturday.
Both opponents have had stuttering, indifferent form, but Poyet says Sunderland must not rely on relegation rivals blowing up in the home straight.
“We need to make sure we do it under our own steam, to make sure we are not looking to blame anyone else for what happens,” he said.
“We want only to concentrate on these 12 Barclays Premier league games.
“Games are starting to run down, but we should still have more than enough to get out of the bottom three.
“Everything is set up for us now.
“We are out of the cups, so we have no distractions and we can concentrate on the one thing that we need to do now – which is winning Premier League games.
“I have it clear now where we stand.
“I don’t plan to go with anything new or experimental.
“I know what works best with the squad of players that we have and so it will just be more of the same.
“I believe five wins from the last 12 games will be enough to keep us up and that is my aim.”
Sunderland have a fully fit squad for tomorrow’s game, with only goalkeeper Keiren Westwood on the long-term injured list.