Sunderland best look over their shoulders – they’re not safe yet.
That’s the verdict of West Bromwich Albion coach Michael Appleton, who believes Saturday’s opponents need a few more points before they can forget about relegation.
Steve Bruce’s men are currently on 38 points, with Albion on 36, and the Sunderland manager’s ex-Manchester United team-mate feels they will seek a result this weekend to try to ensure their safety.
“I don’t think they’ve got enough points. I don’t think Brucie is daft enough to think that and I don’t think he’s daft enough to try to convince his players that he has,” said Appleton.
“Sunderland will probably see Saturday as a chance to kick-start their season, as daft as that might sound when you’ve only got seven games to go.
“I’m sure they will be thinking the game is just as important for them as it is for us because if we win the game we go a point above them.
“If they win the game that might be enough for them, who knows?
“They will see it as a home game against a side who are below them, and even with the run they’re on at the moment it’s a game they’ll be expected to win.
“I’m sure their home supporters will see it that way.”
The dynamics of this Saturday’s game are, in many respects, a mirror image of when the two clubs met back in September when Albion were heading into the game on the back of a 6-0 defeat to Chelsea.
Sunderland lost 5-0 to Manchester City on Sunday.
Appleton expects a response to that heavy loss at the City of Manchester Stadium against Roberto Mancini’s men.
“I was at that game and I wouldn’t say Sunderland were poor,” he added.
“I just thought it was as well as I have seen Manchester City play all season.
“Sunderland will be disappointed to lose the game 5-0 but they came up against a good side on the day and they are a different animal at home from what they are away.”