Sam Allardyce will be hoping to help Sunderland secure Premier League survival for another consecutive season following the impending doom of relegation that awaits them if they fail to pick up points in quick succession.
The Black Cats have been unable to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 13 Premier League outings which clearly depicts how leaky their defence is.
They’ve also lost a lot of games from winning positions over the course of the season due to complacency and defensive errors.
But we’ve gotten to that point in the season where there’s no room for any sort of mistakes as each of them could cost a team three points and Sunderland need to amass as many points as they can before the end of the season.
Over the last few years, Sunderland seems to have become experts at relegation survival as they tend to pick up wins very late into the Premier League campaign.
Surely Sam Allardyce will look back at a couple of games that Sunderland have lost from winning positions and think to himself that they could have had those three points in the bag.
Last time out Sunderland were set to claim the three points in the Tyne-wear derby for the 8th time in a row but the last gasp header from Mitrovic silenced the Sunderland supporters and saw the Black Cats leave St’ James’ Park with just one point.
Sam Allardyce surely deplores the defensive error that led to Newcastle’s equaliser last week as Sunderland could’ve been on their way out of the relegation zone if they had claimed all three points in that fixture.
Now they’re somewhat entrenched in the bottom three alongside mid-town rivals Newcastle although it remains to be seen which one of them will retain their Premier League status.
One thing that Big Sam can be pleased with is his main goal scoring threat – Jermain Defoe.
Defoe had been sensational this season with his brilliant return to 12 goals in 26 Premier League appearances for Sunderland.
It’s quite evident that the Black Cats have a prolific forward in their arsenal but it remains to be seen whether the defenders can step up their game ahead to the tough battle to beat the drop.
This season’s survival requirement might be a little under 40 points with the 38 point mark looking like the magic number right now considering the current tally of the relegation candidates.
Things could get a whole lot tougher though if Aston Villa comes out of nowhere and start picking up points.
The likes of Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich, are most definitely operating based on the assumption that this is a three-way horse race for Premier League survival but what if things don’t turn out that way?
Nothing is ever as it seems in the Premier League and while Villa appears to have been written off right now, they could start picking up points all of a sudden and next thing you know they’re back in the mix of things.
Although judging by their recent performances they already have one foot inside the Championship. Nonetheless, Sunderland should be wary of any uprising.
Can Sunderland stay up?
The Black Cats have every chance of staying up this season, but they have to fix up their leaky defence, and they have to do it fast as opportunities to pick up points are running out for Sunderland.
They certainly have some creativity in the squad with the likes of Khazri and Van Anholt capable of some impressive performances, but they have to produce the goods more consistently to get Sunderland multiple goals each game.
By the looks of things, this is set to be the best relegation scrap we’ve seen in quite a while.