Gus Poyet will send his strongest possible Sunderland side into League Cup battle at the Stadium of Light tonight after admitting: “We need to learn to win”.
Even with a pivotal Premier League encounter against Norwich City on the horizon, the Black Cats boss will resist the temptation to make a raft of changes for the last eight tie against a vulnerable Chelsea – sticking with the team that he believes is much more competitive than it was when he took over.
Jack Colback misses the match with a virus and Carlos Cuellar remains ruled out through injury, but otherwise Poyet has a full squad to utilise – and he doesn’t intend to weaken it for no reason. Instead he wil ask his players for their honest take on whether they can manage three games in a week and amend the team accordingly.
His logic is simple, with Poyet figuring that his team need to build confidence and learn how to win more games before he can play fast and loose with a game that he is desperate to win.
“It’s a competition. You can’t go in to a season thinking I don’t care about this one. It’s about playing and about becoming winners. A winner is somebody who wins most of the time. That’s what we have to try to be,” he said.
“Let’s hope we can beat Chelsea and we will be very, very confident for Norwich. We have been creating chances. On the day we have just lacked a few qualities.
Poyet simply does not think that Sunderland can afford to allow such a good opportunity to build momentum pass.
Progressing into the last four would be a real shot in the arm for Sunderland after a year that has been mostly miserable for seasoned Black Cats’ watchers.
“Everybody talks about confidence. That is such an important word in football,” he said. “There is no better game to improve your confidence. If we can beat Chelsea and reach the semi-finals then the confidence should be high.”
Explaining what he meant by learning to win, he suggested that Sunderland have forgotten how to make things turn in their favour.
He said: “I try to concentrate on everything we do. We have to make sure we do what we do in every game. I think we get very close most of the time. I think that as soon as we start winning then it should be the opposite way around.
“That a deflected shot will go in, that the own goal will not go in, that the decision of the referee will be for us.
“Suddenly when you are winning games you all become winners. That’s why it is so important in the next game. It is an opportunity to start winning games. You have to take that opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Poyet evaded questions about the vacancy at Tottenham that has emerged after Andre Villas-Boas’ dismissal.
The Black Cats chief was linked to the vacancy in a Sunday newspaper last week and was a popular player at White Hart Lane before moving into management. But he is a long shot for the job and says his concentration is focused solely on matters at the Stadium of Light. He said: “It’s flattering but I just came here and I am concentrating on here. My aim here is to help the whole club. I have heard the news but nothing else.”
Villas-Boas was the second Premier League manager to lose his job in three days and was swiftly followed by another of Poyet’s managerial colleagues Gianfranco Zola, who resigned from Watford on Monday afternoon. Reacting to the news from White Hart Lane, Poyet admitted his disappointment.
“Nothing surprises me,” he said.