PAUL LAMBERT believes Sunderland will be dragged back into the thick of the relegation scrap if Aston Villa can triumph tonight.
The Black Cats can boast a five-point buffer with the drop zone heading into this evening’s clash at Villa Park after Wigan ended a run of two back-to-back defeats with a point against Spurs on Saturday.
But Villa, lying immediately above the bottom three in 17th spot, would draw level with Sunderland if they can secure victory tonight, albeit Paolo Di Canio’s side boast a far superior goal difference.
Lambert said: “We have to win. The next four games are massive.
“But we also know if we win tonight then we pull Sunderland right back in there as well.
“There’s only three points in it and we’re at home. I’d rather be at home than going away, that’s for sure.
“We’ll have the crowd behind us, everything will be behind us and the big thing for myself is we’re playing well enough and creating chances.
“It would be different if we were not playing well or creating chances, then there would be a problem.
“But we’ll certainly create chances.”
Tonight’s clash is the first of two successive pivotal encounters for Villa, who travel to Lambert’s former club Norwich City next weekend.
Wins in both games would take Villa to the magical 40-point mark, perennially seen as the survival point in the Premier League relegation battle.
Although Lambert is not completely convinced that 40 will be sufficient for top-flight safety, he knows wins in the next two would be a huge step forward for Villa.
“I’m not sure because it depends how other results go, you won’t be far away from it though,” added the Scot.
“Two wins would be good, the important thing is it’s in our own hands still.
“It would be different if we had to rely on other people, but we don’t. We’ll see what happens.”