Gus Poyet says whittling his fully-fit Sunderland squad down to 11 players is the most important part of their preparation for tomorrow’s visit of Crystal Palace.
The Black Cats’ boss is insists he is “90% sure” of his line-up and says there will be no major surprises, with Vito Mannone, Wes Brown, Marcos Alonso, Ki Sung-Yueng, Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini all in line to return.
A mixture of illness, injury and straightforward rotation saw Poyet ringing the changes for Sunday’s FA Cup defeat at Hull but, with Premier League survival now the only goal, the Uruguayan is going full throttle into his side’s 12 remaining games.
He said: “I think the easiest part for me is to make sure I pick the right team. That is the most important thing and the responsibility I am going to put on them and what they need to do.”
Poyet took plenty of criticism from sections of his own support for fielding a much-changed side in the 3-0 loss at the KC Stadium - and admitted he understood some of the frustration.
With only league matters now to focus on, he added: “I was a fan when I was young and I went to the stadium and wanted to see my favourite player on the pitch.
“I would blame the manager when he didn’t play him. We all do that.
“We are all managers and we are all fans. You don’t realise at that time what is going on behind the scenes.
“How long it took for someone to sort out the tickets for the final, for example. You would not believe.
“You give players and staff a certain amount of tickets but sooner or later you know they are going to come and ask for more and then somebody else does and you never finish.
“How can you control that and sort everything else out as well?
“It’s impossible. Even on the day before. Now there is nothing. No distractions. There is no Wembley, no tickets, no summer, no pre-season.
“It’s only me they know is preparing things and we have to concentrate on winning football games. That is perfection. That’s what we all want and I think that’s one of the best things about being in England.
“They don’t have to talk to the press every two days in other countries. They have nothing to worry about apart from sleeping well, eating well, training well and being ready to give their maximum.
“It is impossible to ask them to win every game but just to give their maximum.”
Up against a Crystal Palace side only two points above the relegation zone, Poyet (pictured left) added: “I think it’s a great game. If I was a football player and I’m in the situation against Palace, would I want to play Palace away or at home?
“The game is changed because people prefer to play away from home. Where are they coming from? Another planet? It looks like there will be 42,000 people there. What a game.
“This is the game I want to play, not the Monday night in January on a rubbish pitch. This is the one.”