Sunderland striker: Hard work and clean sheets will keep us up, not playing like Barcelona

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It is a clash that has delivered some of the most memorable memories of Sunderland’s time in the Premier League.

Ji Dong-Won, Phil Bardsley, Connor Wickham, all have been the unlikely goalscoring heroes.

We’re Sunderland, we can’t play like Barcelona, no one expects us to play like Barcelona because we’re not.

Yet key to all of those shock wins was a remarkable defensive rearguard, with commitment, an ability to absorb pressure for large periods.

As the Black Cats search for their first win over Manchester City since 2013, Fabio Borini has said that the path to success is playing like Sunderland, not Barcelona.

Borini said: “We’re Sunderland, we can’t play like Barcelona, no one expects us to play like Barcelona because we’re not.

“What we have to do against the big teams is stay in the game for as long as possible, because we know we’re Sunderland, we’re hard-workers.

“We’ve been told about the history of the club, they tell us that it’s a hard-working place and that’s what we have to do.”

Sunderland’s challenge in beating the drop has been made even steeper by a resurgence from a number of their closest rivals.

Leicester responded to the sacking of Claudio Ranieri by thumping Liverpool, while Swansea City and Hull City have made strides under Paul Clement and Marco Silva respectively.

Crystal Palace were slow to get going under Sam Allardyce, but landed a precious win against Middlesbrough last time out.

Sunderland, kings of the late season post-manager bounce, will not get that this season and Borini says the players must find a lift and get the defensive elements right to survive.

“To a certain point they [rivals] have felt something was required, a change, to pick up points because they were in a worsening situation. We have to do what we did in the past few years, which is get out of where we are.

“We showed how much desire and effort we had to stay in the Premier League and we need to do that again. You can see last season especially because we were not playing rocket-science football, it was simple direct football to stay up.

“It was the effort we put up on the defensive side with the clean sheet to stay up. We have to do the same.

“Against our rivals obviously we try to make the game a little bit more ours, but if that’s not the case we have to go back to the hardworking part.”

Borini had arguably his finest moment in a Sunderland shirt against Sunday’s opponents, scoring the opener in the League Cup final and sending fans into dreamland.

That day seems a long time ago and Borini has struggled to recapture that form this season.

The same goes for his team, but he is confident that with defensive discipline they can frustrate Pep Guardiola’s side.

He said: “I like being involved against Manchester City but not for the reason of the League Cup final I scored in.

“You want to take on the best players, play against the best and alongside them if possible. We played well in the first game against them this season, we have to do the same.

“We were compact and defended well all game. We have to do the same again because it will be harder for them at our place, they hate coming up here.”