GUS POYET admits it often suits Sunderland to tackle the Premier League’s heavyweights, more than facing their bottom half peers.
Sunderland became only the third team this season to take points off league leaders Chelsea last weekend, to continue their purple patch against the top flight’s big-hitters.
Last season, Sunderland recorded victories over Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, with the latter looking to avoid a fifth consecutive Stadium of Light defeat tonight.
Poyet concedes that the cat-and-mouse scenario of facing the top six plays to Sunderland’s strengths, as they can defend in numbers and hit the opposition on the counter-attack.
The far greater problem for the Black Cats during Poyet’s stewardship has been when they have to take the game to a side battling alongside them in the lower reaches of the table.
“I think it’s the quality of the squad that allows you to do certain things that you cannot do against the other teams,” said the head coach.
“Sometimes, a difficult game suits us better than an open, inter-changing, attack, attack, attack one.
“In those, maybe, we’re not that good. But against Chelsea and Man City you can’t keep exchanging attacks. They have spent a certain amount of money on positions to make the difference in those games.
“That doesn’t mean if (Steven) Fletcher has a couple of chances, he won’t score. He probably will. But (Sergio) Aguero definitely would.
“I think we adapt better to those games, and the fans as well.
“They know how much we need to work and defend against those teams, whereas against a bottom six team, they expect us to attack all the time.”
However, saving the better performances for better opposition is not a pattern which Poyet wants to continue in the long-term.
Poyet eventually hopes to field a team who can dominate proceedings, regardless of who they are facing.
“We are not even near where I want,” he added. “I would like to control games a lot more – pass the ball more and do plenty of things so we have to defend less.
“For different reasons, it’s not been possible so we’re trying to adapt to being a difficult team to beat and then taking our chances.”