Sunderland skipper on must-win Middlesbrough clash plus the return of Lee Cattermole and Wahbi Khazri

Sunderland skipper John O'Shea
Sunderland skipper John O'Shea
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For Sunderland to stand any chance of Premier League survival, they have to beat Middlesbrough in next week's must-win Tees-Wear derby.

The Black Cats are nine points adrift from safety with just six games to go and skipper John O'Shea is under no illusions as to the task facing Sunderland if they are to pull off another miracle escape.

Relegation and North East rivals Boro are 19th, three points ahead of basement side Sunderland heading into the Riverside clash with both teams in desperate need of the three points.

"We have to take it one game at a time and next up its Boro," said O'Shea.

"It’ll be a difficult game but we know we have to go there and win the game – it’s as simple as that if we want to stay in the Premier League."

Only a win will do at the Riverside on Wednesday, April 26.

O'Shea added: "That’s definitely the case.

"It was also similar when we went down to Crystal Palace because we had to win that game too, but we know since then there’s been too many games where we should have got better results.

"We haven’t and that means we are where we are, so we have to do something about it against Middlesbrough. We saw the game against Arsenal and they caused them problems.

"It was a decent performance and they were unable to take anything from it, so, just like we will be, they’ll be targeting three points.

"It’s away from home and it’ll be a real derby atmosphere, but they’re the games you want to be a part of. We’re all looking forward to it."

Sunderland could only manage a 2-2 draw against West Ham, with David Moyes' side twice having to come from behind after conceding early goals in the first and second half to Andre Ayew and then James Collins - Fabio Borini rescuing a late point after coming on as a sub.

O'Shea added: "I think we were disappointed. We gave ourselves too much to do by going behind on two occasions, and if we’d gone ahead at any stage of the game I’m confident we would have seen it through.

"Performance-wise there was plenty of positives but we know we’re at the stage now where wins are key and that has to be our total focus ahead of the Middlesbrough game."

The big talking point from the weekend was the return of Wahbi Khazri to the starting line-up, the winger's first start for Sunderland since the end of October.

The Tunisian marked his return with a stunning equaliser direct from a corner kick and O'Shea believes his delivery from set pieces will be a key weapon for Sunderland in the run-in.

O'Shea said: "His performances in training have been important and that’s why he’s been selected.

"He took his chance and we all know about his delivery from set pieces – it doesn’t get much better than Saturday!

"That’s going to be key for us in the games going forward and it was an important goal for us because we hadn’t been scoring. Now we need to keep going and go back to getting clean sheets," he told the club website.

Sunderland's midfield has been boosted in recent games by the return of Cattermole, who started against Leicester City following a six-month absence from the team through injury.

O'Shea missed the defeats to Leicester and Manchester United following the death of his father but returned to the Sunderland defence for the draw with the Hammers.

And O'Shea has welcomed the recent return of Cattermole to the Sunderland side, praising his leadership in central midfield.

"Catts has been a big part of the club for so long and it’s great to have him back," added the Republic of Ireland international.

"He’s a presence and when you talk about the atmosphere around the place, he always makes sure everyone stays on top of their performances and we miss that, as well as everything else he brings to the team.

"Hopefully he can stay fit until the end of the season and have that positive impact."