GUS POYET wants Sunderland to be the side who take Chelsea’s scalp and end his former club’s unbeaten start to the season.
Five points from the last three games have edged Sunderland away from the Premier League’s relegation zone, yet the Black Cats now face a daunting run, with games against Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool in the space of eight days – starting with this Saturday’s visit of Jose Mourinho’s men.
League leaders Chelsea have a seven-point advantage at the summit and their unbeaten start to the season has already prompted comparisons with Arsenal’s “Invincibles” side of 2003-04, when the Gunners went the whole campaign without suffering defeat.
But, far from being daunted at the visit of his old side, Poyet says Sunderland should relish the possibility of ending Chelsea’s streak, particularly after the Black Cats inflicted the first Premier League home defeat on Mourinho, with April’s victory at Stamford Bridge.
Poyet said: “I think from now until the end of the season, everyone is going to try to be the one who beats Chelsea first. “Now it’s our opportunity and let’s see if we can take it.
“We need to be spot-on – don’t make any mistakes, be good, organised and be brave on the ball so you’re not defending all the time.
“There are plenty of things that we need to do really well on the day.
“But we’ve done it in the past, so hopefully we can do it again.”
Sunderland have beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United during Poyet’s tenure and the Uruguayan has no patience for the sentiment that anything from the next three games should be classed as a bonus.
“I want to take that ‘nothing to lose’ mentality away from Sunderland,” he said.
“I don’t want us to feel we are ‘OK’ and think: ‘We’re playing Chelsea, we can lose’. No we can’t. Let’s stop thinking like that or ‘we’ve got enough points’.
“We need to play every game as an opportunity to win.
“We need to have that mentality in every single player and every single person in the club.”
“Until we do that, it’s going to be difficult for us to aim higher – top 10 or whatever.
“At the moment, we’re all right.
“That’s OK, but I don’t like just being alright.”
While Sunderland were unable to register a third top-flight victory of the campaign in Saturday’s goalless draw at Leicester, they at least managed to record a first clean sheet in almost two months.
After conceding eight in last month’s rout at Southampton, Sunderland have rediscovered their resilience at the back – an asset which Poyet knows will be tested against Chelsea.
“I think the mentality and the reaction is back,” he added.
“We’re playing to our strengths again.
“We know Chelsea are the best team in the league, but we need to play them and then concentrate on City and Liverpool.
“But, overall, we are defending well, apart from that awful day we had at Southampton.
“It’s a special game (against Chelsea) and we’ve got three now.
“Let’s try to enjoy it and make sure nothing dreadful happens.”