Belfast Telegraph

Poyet targets another major scalp

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is convinced his side's mental strength can help them claim another major scalp when Manchester City visit the Stadium of Light on Wednesday night.

The Black Cats' big-time heroics played a huge part in last season's unlikely march to survival and Saturday's gutsy goalless draw with Chelsea once again underlined their preference for the big occasion.

Add in a recent record against City which has seen Sunderland win all four of their previous clashes on Wearside 1-0, and it is no surprise the Uruguayan is in bullish mood as his side look to stretch their unbeaten run to five games.

Poyet said: "There is a mentality sometimes that when you play against the top teams, before you start the game you accept that if you lose nothing will happen.

"I don't think that's right - I don't think you are playing to the maximum if you accept that before the game. I think you have to be clear that it is going to be more difficult, but you will have a chance.

"On those terms the players have been exceptional because we stayed up last year because of that, and we showed last Saturday we can do it and we can try to stop the other teams doing what they like."

Poyet is under no illusions about the size of his side's task against a City side who sprang back to form with a 3-0 win at Southampton on Sunday, but who the manager believes remain second best to Jose Mourinho's men.

He added: "I think Chelsea right now look stronger in every aspect of their game but it's a long season and when you play in so many competitions it becomes very difficult to stay in all of them.

"They have got quality everywhere - they are one of the top clubs in the world and we have got to deal with that. But that's why we fought so hard last year to be here."

Sunderland's recent upturn in fortunes has coincided with the promotion of goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, who moved to Wearside on a free transfer from City in the summer.

Pantilimon pushed City's regular number one Joe Hart to the limit last season and since replacing former number one Vito Mannone he has excelled with two consecutive clean sheets.

Poyet said: "I think Costel had a great season last season over there - he proved he can play at that level so we are lucky to have him here.

"We've got two great goalkeepers and he knows he needs to perform or the manager won't hesitate to change him.

"He's come in and got clean sheets with the help of the rest of the players and let's hope he can maintain that level."

Poyet has no new injury concerns but may be tempted to freshen up his starting line-up with defender Sebastian Coates and midfielder Ricky Alvarez among those pushing to be included.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini is short of defensive options following the loss of Vincent Kompany to injury.

City's influential captain suffered a hamstring problem in the latter stages of the win at Southampton on Sunday and will not feature at the Stadium of Light.

That means Pellegrini will now have to field a different centre-back pairing as Eliaquim Mangala is suspended after his sending-off at St Mary's.

Right-back Bacary Sagna could therefore be pressed into action in the centre or fringe player Dedryck Boyata could be drafted in alongside Martin Demichelis.

Pellegrini said: "We have Dedryck Boyata, he is working very well, we have also Martin Demichelis, we have Bacary Sagna. So we have three options. We will see which two of them will play."

Matija Nastasic, who has been out of favour this season, might have been a possibility but Pellegrini revealed that he too is currently crocked.

The Chilean said: "Unfortunately for him, he is again injured. He has had two long injuries this season. He has a muscle injury in his thigh.

"I don't know if he will be able to work with the squad for one week more so he is not an option."

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