Lee Cattermole has refused to write off Sunderland’s slim hopes of taking even a point from tomorrow night’s daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Facing Manchester City at their own stadium is a mammoth enough task for a side who look all-but relegated, but this re-arranged match has become even more difficult following City’s defeat to Liverpool.
Sunderland then travel to Chelsea on Saturday and even the most optimistic supporter would struggle to see anything other than two defeats against vastly superior opposition.
Cattermole, however, has not yet given up – although he was honest enough to admit the prospect of his side saving themselves is remote.
Sunderland will still have a game in hand after tomorrow night’s match, but are seven points from safety and things have gone as badly behind the scenes as they have on the pitch.
If the miracle is to be somehow achieved, then Gus Poyet’s men need to come away from their next two matches unbeaten.
Cattermole, to his credit, still believes this most unlikely task can be completed.
Asked directly about staying up, the midfielder said: “It’s getting harder, but while there are points to play for we can win.
“You can’t write off games like Manchester City and Chelsea, teams have been there in the past and won, but if we are to stay up we have to start picking points up.
“We’ll keep going and that’s the type of performance we’ll demand from each other.”
Sunderland were improved against Everton in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat, a Wes Brown own goal summing up the club’s Premier League campaign.
They have been masters of their own misfortune, something which has frustrated the players more than anyone else.
Cattermole added “We’re not doing anything wrong on purpose.
“Anyone who looked at that game (Everton) and everything suggests you have a top, top team in Everton, but if you looked at us you wouldn’t have thought we were bottom of the league.
“The problem is we haven’t done that enough, we have to find a way to repeat that performance.
“That’s the level we need to be playing at to give us a chance of picking points up.”
In such times, Sunderland’s beleaguered manager and his players will look for anything positive.
Yaya Toure will miss the game, and possibly the rest of this season, but it’s not as if City do not have another top-class international to step in.
It would rather help the cause if Sunderland could stop helping out the opposition – Brown’s own goal against Everton was the sixth of this season alone.
Cattermole said: “Maybe they’re the type of goals you concede when you’re down at the bottom, but there was no real error in the goal, while at the other end we had a lot of chances in their box on Saturday.
“They didn’t go in, I’m not sure if that’s a lack of quality from us, good defending from them or a bit of both.
It’s a really disappointed dressing-room but there are positives to take from that.”
City need to win if they are to keep the pressure on Liverpool and Chelsea.
They, too, have two games in hand and even six points would not be enough to catch the men from Anfield.
Alas for Sunderland, they could hardly have picked a more difficult fixture as they attempt to reverse their fortunes.
City striker Eden Dzeko said: “We have a lot of new players and we want to win the league again for our fans, the team and the club and we have to get back on track by beating Sunderland and then West Brom in the next week.”