Tony Mowbray's strong Watford warning as Sunderland bid to keep their play-off dream alive

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Tony Mowbray says Sunderland cannot afford to look beyond Saturday as their play-off hopes increase, insisting that Watford's quality cannot be ignored.

Defeats for Blackburn Rovers and West Brom in their midweek fixtures mean Sunderland's top-six aspirations are in their own hands ahead of the final two games of the regular campaign.

Mowbray's side have realised Mowbray's ambition of keeping the season alive for supporters and then some, with a surge in ticket sales for Watford's visit reflecting the rising excitement on Wearside.

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The head coach insists no one at the Academy of Light is looking beyond Saturday afternoon and the visit of Chris Wilder's side.

Sunderland's win over West Brom took them to sixth in the Championship tableSunderland's win over West Brom took them to sixth in the Championship table
Sunderland's win over West Brom took them to sixth in the Championship table

"We don't sit and think about stuff like that, we just have to play the games as they come," he said.

"I've been doing this a long time and I know that football can kick you in the teeth if you get ahead of yourself. I'm just focusing on preparing the team for the next game, and see how we get on.

"Training has been very normal, we're just preparing to face what I would suggest is a very dangerous Watford team, one that has real quality at the top end of the pitch.

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"I don't think it's something that we discuss as a group, we've just got to play each game and see where we get to. We know we could still finish in midtable because there's so many teams in close proximity. It's good that we're in the mix.

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"We have to win some matches and some of those around us may well go and win two, we've talked before how hard it is to win three matches on the bounce in this division. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next two games, and I don't set myself up for a big fall. What will be will be, we'll try and win a couple of games and if we do, we'll have some big matches to play.

"If we don't, we'll look back on a decent first season back in Championship and after a quick break, we'll go again."

Watford's own play-off aspirations were ended by a 1-0 defeat to Hull City last weekend, and they have won just twice since Wilder replaced Slaven Bilic.

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However, Mowbray has no doubt about the quality in the side and has warned against anyone taking them lightly - particularly as he knows they have the pace on the break to replicate the approach of some of the teams to take results from the Stadium of Light in recent weeks.

He said: "They carry a huge threat, players like Ismaila Sarr, Joao Pedro, Asprilla...

"They have a lot attacking players who are experienced, talented, quick and carry a big threat. For whatever reason they've obviously had issues this season but what I do know is that when I look at the individual talent they have, it's a game that we have to really focus on. If they bring their best game, they can cause anyone in this division problems and we have to be very mindful of that."