Mignolet calls for calm heads
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had warned Sunderland they cannot allow the pressure of a relegation scrap get to them if they are to survive.
The 25-year-old Belgium international and his team-mates find themselves in desperate trouble as they attempt to avoid an unexpected departure from the Barclays Premier League with new manager Paolo Di Canio having been handed the task of dragging them clear from trouble. They head for arch-rivals Newcastle on Sunday and then face Everton on April 20.
However, Mignolet is adamant that each of their remaining six games must be tackled in isolation, and he said: "As a professional footballer, we can't think about that. We can't think about what's going to happen in the Everton game or the game after that, or what's going to happen at the end of the season."
He added: "Now we have to focus and get ourselves ready for the game against Newcastle because there are three points to win, three points to lose.
"I know obviously it's a derby game and there is much more at stake than only the three points, but as a football players, you can't think of that because that's not important at this moment. Points are far more important, and therefore we have to focus ourselves on that and nothing else."
The Black Cats are on the back of a nerve-shredding nine-game winless run which has brought them just three points, and with the Magpies themselves needing another victory to all but ensure their place in the top flight next season, the derby stakes have rarely been higher.
Recent Tyne-Wear derbies have unfolded between fine margins, Sunderland's 5-1 drubbing at St James' in October 2010 aside, and fortune often plays its part.
Sunderland have suffered luck of the unwelcome kind in their past two games with Titus Bramble's own goal handing Manchester United victory at the Stadium of Light, while a Matt Kilgallon deflection and a Branislav Ivanovic winner - which the defender appeared to know little about - assured Chelsea of the points at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
However, Mignolet believes only he and his team-mates can change that, and he said: "When you are in the position we are, those things go against you. But there is no such thing as luck in football, you just force that yourself. Let's make sure we force the luck our way against Newcastle because that's very important.
"If we can get the three points there, there are still 15 points to play for."