Sunderland midfielder Ki is ready to provide the midfied balance that can tip Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby in the Black Cats' favour.
Sunderland desperately need a win on Sunday to try and kick-start a season that is in danger of imploding after a run of eight games without a win, but Gus Poyet has little room to maneouvre with a squad that is low on confidence.
He is pondering whether to hand Wes Brown his first Premier League start since January 2012 but will definitely bring back South Korea international Ki, who was ineligible for his first game as Black Cats manager because it was against his parent club Swansea.
Poyet made shoring up Sunderland’s defence his priority but he was also understood to be disappointed by his team’s inability to hold on to the ball in midfield, which is Ki’s prime responsibility for the Black Cats.
And the midfielder is ready to step in on Sunday, revealing that his experience of playing in an Old Firm derby for former club Celtic will give him an insight into how these games usually start.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere, especially at home but it’s also going to be the tightest game in the world,” Ki told Sunderland’s official website.
“I think everyone will focus to get the points and we’re going to be doing everything we can to win the game. We know it’s different from normal game and we’re going to be desperate to win it because it’s a derby. My experiences with Celtic against Rangers has taught me that in the first ten minutes there won’t be a lot of football, it’s going to be all about the tackles but then we have to get settled and try to play the football we practice for all the time. We have to be calm on the ball and take our chance otherwise they will.”
Ironically, Ki (pictured below) believes that mental strength will be crucial to emerging on top in the Wear-Tyne tussle.
Sunderland’s players were accused of being “gutless” in one national newspaper – an accusation that has hurt the squad as they look to bounce back from another heavy defeat. But Ki believes mental fortitude could be the pivotal factor.
He said: “I think we have to be strong mentally, also physically of course, but mentally we have to control the game or we’ll lose our minds and there can be red cards or losses of concentration which give chances to the opposition. We have to concentrate.
“He (Gus Poyet) tried to give us a lot of things to improve, mainly keeping and passing the ball so we don’t lose our energy chasing it. He also wants us to create as many chances as we can with the ball.
“I like to keep the ball because if we lose it we have to run and get it back but if you keep the ball and create the chances then you don’t have to chase it. If we keep trying to play, we’re going to improve a lot.”
Meanwhile, Emanuele Giaccherini admits that there were angry scenes in the Sunderland dressing room after their defeat to Swansea. The Italy winger was a disappointing performer on Saturday and confesses that a few home truths were spoken by the Sunderland players.
“The Swansea result was a very bad one for us and nobody was happy in the dressing room afterwards,” said Giaccherini.
“We were angry with ourselves and angry with each other because it was not a good performance – the second half especially.
“But I don’t think anger is a bad thing among the players after a bad defeat – it shows that they care and that they have passion.”