SEBASTIAN Larsson believes Sunderland must win games like today’s to move to “the next level”.
The Black Cats were the only Premier League team not to lose to Manchester City last season, and the only side to take points from Eastlands.
They also knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup, and have taken points off the Gunners and Liverpool in four of the last five seasons.
“We went away initially disappointed we didn’t win having been 3-1 up with not many minutes (five) to go,” Larsson said of March’s 3-3 Etihad draw. “But it was a terrific point for us and a nice game for me – I scored two goals.
“Those are the types of games where you try to build your confidence when you go into the big games. We want them to feel playing Sunderland is not an easy game. We don’t want them looking at it thinking, ‘Oh, no problem this week!’ That’s what we’ve got to try and build towards to get to the next level.”
Whereas City have struggled to find their best form – and are yet to win in this season’s Champions League – Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic last week ensured they go into the early kick-off confident.
“We haven’t lost so far this season and you don’t get a bigger test than going to the champions away from home,” Larsson commented. “It’s not easy to get anything at the Etihad but we’re going to have a good go.”
With Roberto Mancini apparently undecided about his best formation, City are yet to recapture the form they ended last season with. They are out of the League Cup, winless in Europe and yet to keep a clean sheet.
“Maybe it’s better to be playing them early in the season,” Larsson reflected, admitting these things are relative. “You get new players in and sometimes it takes a bit of time to get everyone settled in. But anything below par and we’ll come away with nothing.
“All teams go through patches where you play perfectly, and others where it’s a bit tougher. With every City team you come up against it’s going to be very tough.”
That Sunderland started with four straight league draws did not concern Larsson. Still, he did admit: “It was a massive boost to hold on for the win against Wigan. You could see towards the end of the game we hadn’t won this season. We got a bit tentative, nervous, we were desperate to get three points. We’d been in front in the previous three games and dropped points.
“At the same time, we are one of three teams unbeaten (in the Premier League) and we’ve had three tough away games and Liverpool at home. It’s not been a bad start, it’s been okay.”