Liverpool v Sunderland preview: Poyet calls for something to change SAFC mood

The nightmare of relegation looms large for Gus Poyet, especially as Sunderland tonight take on Liverpool

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet
Sunderland manager Gust Poyet

Meanwhile, back to reality . . .

Sunderland awoke from their double-cup dream three weeks ago, but while the nightmare of relegation still looms, Gus Poyet is losing no sleep.

The Black Cats manager took the role without expecting to have steered the club to safety by now.

The Premier League table is as it was, Sunderland in the bottom three. Better, in fact, since he continues to believe his side have given themselves – without consistency but with enough wins here and there – a genuine opportunity to stay up, and “can be better than at least three teams”.

With equal realism, he accepts tonight’s assignment at resurgent Liverpool is a tough one.

The Reds are second top, Luis Suarez on fire.

Poyet first encountered his fellow Uruguayan when the latter was 17 and playing in a friendly at a summer resort 140 kilometres from Montevideo.

He was unimpressed, but now rates Suarez alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, insists Liverpool would be mid-table without him and, yesterday, expressed his regret, albeit jocularly, at having hoped his countryman would stay on Merseyside last summer.

Tonight Poyet “hopes he is ill”.

Joking aside, however, the Sunderland manager is relishing such a challenge in the belief that it can bring out one’s best, and the best in his players.

And they must respond with something, an impact – a win, a goal or a tackle and not, he laughed, the sack – to “change the mood”.

Otherwise, it is back to reality.

“We were living in a dream because it was a great opportunity (in the FA and Capital One Cups),” said Poyet.

“Then everything was gone and now you look and the only thing you see is the table, and it has been like that all season, so it is back to reality.

“I am not worried because I knew the first day I got the job it was a very big challenge.

“Now we have 10 games, I am not going to hide and I will take responsibility.

“But I believe we can be better than at least three teams.

“We are realistic, I know this could be one of the most difficult games, not only because of the way we have been playing, not scoring and conceding, but because of the way Liverpool are playing.

“I am looking forward to that because that is when you should be at your best, trying to do something special.

“All the games are the same, this is against one of the top teams in form but that doesn’t mean you give up.

“We need to concentrate on ourselves, make sure we are spot-on and work well and when I need to, it is up to me to make decisions.

“They have players in form we need to take care of, but we need to make sure we go with the right attitude and mentality and convinced that you can have an upset, otherwise you have no chance.

“We have been trying different things, different situations. Fabio (Borini, under the terms of his loan deal from Liverpool) is not available tomorrow and we need to try different things.

“I cannot keep closing my mind and wonder at the end of the season why I didn’t try different things and solutions.”

With Steven Fletcher also ruled out due to injury, Poyet may hand an instant start to Connor Wickham on his return from a loan spellat Leeds United.

Poyet added: “I cannot plan to go and lose and take a 3-0 (defeat).

“We are not going to do that. We will go and the idea is just to win somehow, with identity, passing the ball, fighting or defending. Whatever is needed is needed now because we can think about nothing more than being in the Premier League.

“We need a big impact now. We need something to happen to change the mood. Maybe a big win will provide that spark, or maybe it will have to be something else.

“If you were in a lower division you would probably look to bring a player on loan from somewhere to have an impact.

“Another club might sack their manager and bring in another one, although I obviously hope that doesn’t happen here!

“It is that type of thing we need. We need something to happen, and I need to find that season-changing moment.

“Between the Liverpool game and Monday against West Ham, I have to find that.

“Sometimes, when you realise what is happening, you are gone. I am realistic. Football is very simple so I’m not going to do something really incredible.

“We’ve been doing different things because of different games.

“We need to start better and compete better. Those were things I thought would never happen, but it is back to reality for the manager as well.

“I knew it all the time. I was never expecting to be safe by now.

“If you look at the whole process and games we didn’t win that we had a great chance to win, we could maybe have had another seven or eight points. But there is a reason we had one from seven when I got the job.

“The reality is that there are no more dreams or special things apart from getting the wins that we need. That has always been the case really.

“But I’m still convinced that we have put ourselves in a great situation.

“It’s everything I wanted when I got the job, when I thought it would be great if we were in with a chance with five games to go.

“Then it became eight games. Now we have 10.

“I cannot ask for more. We could already have been gone by now. But we are there and we have a great chance.”

TONIGHT'S TEAM NEWS

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has a fresh selection headache ahead of tonight’s Premier League trip to Liverpool.

On-loan striker Fabio Borini is ineligible to play against his parent club and Connor Wickham has been recalled from Leeds as a result, while full-back Marcos Alonso is suspended following his red card in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Norwich.

Provisional squad: Mannone, Ustari, Celustka, Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Vergini, Cuellar, Roberge, Bridcutt, Cattermole, Gardner, Ki, Giaccherini, Johnson, Colback, Larsson, Ba, Mavrias, Altidore, Scocco, Wickham.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will select from the same squad for the visit of Sunderland.

With no new injuries to contend with the Reds boss has to decide whether to stick with the same side which beat Cardiff 6-3 on Saturday.

In the last three matches Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling have interchanged places in the team with the Brazilian starting in south Wales.

Provisional squad: Mignolet, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Flanagan, Gerrard, Allen, Henderson, Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez, Jones, Sakho, Cissokho, Toure, Lucas, Alberto, Coutinho, Aspas, Teixeira, Moses.

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