Victor Anichebe up for the survival fight at Sunderland
Victor Anichebe is ready to roll up his sleeves and scrap for Premier League survival as opposition defenders target Sunderland's surprise package.
The 28-year-old striker started the season without a club and got his chance when his former Everton boss David Moyes turned to him in a desperate search for reinforcements.
Almost four months on, Anichebe has established himself as a fixture in the team and a fans' favourite with his muscular approach to the game, although that has not gone unnoticed by the Black Cats' adversaries.
He said: "I was saying to some of my friends and to other people, it's becoming a lot more difficult. When I first came into the side after doing a pre-season, teams didn't really expect (it).
"But now teams are trying to stop our left-hand side of attack. Teams are really ready for us, they are a lot more aggressive with me, they are a lot more aggressive on our side.
"But I'm used to it. I just have to be ready. Every game now, it's really tough. Sometimes they are doubling up on me, they've got a guy in front, a guy behind, but that's just part and parcel of the game.
"I suppose it's a compliment as well, but I'm ready for it. Whenever there's a battle, I'll be ready for it."
Anichebe missed the 1-0 midweek defeat by Chelsea with a thigh injury, but returned to good effect on Saturday as Sunderland secured a fourth win in seven games as Patrick van Aanholt's 49th-minute strike earned them a 1-0 win over Watford at the Stadium of Light.
It was far from pretty, but Moyes' men, anchored by central defenders Lamine Kone and Papy Djilobodji, ground out a result they desperately needed to lift themselves from the foot of the table.
Anichebe said: "I always say to the two centre-backs we have, whenever they play well, whenever they are beasts, it really drives us on, it really drives the fans on.
"Whenever they are like that, it makes it a lot easier for all of us because if we can see them being the beasts that they are, the rest of us respond to that, so as long as they can push us, we all respond together as a team.
"Hopefully this again can be a springboard. We have got a little bit of a break now, but hopefully for the next game, we are going to be ready again."
That next game comes at Manchester United, who are on a four-game winning streak, on Boxing Day, although Anichebe insists they should travel with confidence.
He said: "We are very blessed to be able to go to these kind of places and go and play and express ourselves, so we shouldn't fear anything like that."
Watford will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing afternoon on Wearside against Crystal Palace with manager Walter Mazzarri taking a longer-term view.
Mazzarri said: "I don't want to look at the table. We need to grow as a team, but of course the objective we declared since the beginning is to stay in the Premier League.
"We need to grow and to become a better team, and to make fewer mistakes than the ones we are committing now.
"And of course another thing I would like is for the important players not to get injured because that also has an impact."