GUS Poyet insists Sunderland’s relegation six-pointer against Cardiff City this Sunday is a game to be relished, not feared.
And he reckons the pressure and tension of the big occasion will bring out the the best in both the Black Cats’ players, and their fans.
Poyet knows that a victory and the right results elsewhere this weekend will lift Sunderland free of the relegation zone.
That prospect though is tempered by the fact that Sunderland have won only three home game all season and along the way have been bested on home turf by unimpressive opposition that has included Fulham, Hull City, West Ham and Aston Villa.
Such a poor record has upped the stakes ahead of the Sunday showdown.
But in the mind of Sunderland’s head coach there is only positivity, excitement and anticipation.
“If you ask me how I feel about this game, I would have to tell you that I cannot wait,” Poyet said.
“I’m really looking forward to it because by the time kick-off comes, I will be ready, the players will be ready and I feel our fans will be ready too.
“You might not have predicted at the start of the season that a Sunderland game against Cardiff City in April would have one of our best atmospheres of the season, but that’s what I’m hoping for.
“This is a big game for us and I’m not worried about it, I’m looking forward to it.
“We have been playing well recently and there is not reason why we should not play well again this weekend, no reason at all.”
Despite the game being televised and scheduled for a midday kick-off on Sunday, it has still caught the imagination of the Wearside public.
More than 44,000 tickets have been sold already and the match could well be heading for the sell-out that Poyet called for immediately after last week’s victory over Chelsea.
“It’s fantastic and that’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the game,” he said.
“I think it will be amazing, I think it will be spectacular and I don’t think the players are worried about any pressure of expectation.
“I think they are in a good place after our last three games and I think they will be very focused on this one.
“I don’t think there’s any danger of us being nervous and I don’t think the crowd will be nervous either.
“I expect them to get fully behind us from first minute to last, even if we go a goal down.
“They will know – like we know – that we went a goal down against Manchester City at the Etihad and a goal down against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and it wasn’t the end of us.
“As a player I loved big games and as a manager I’m the same.
“I think it’s great that we have such an exciting challenge ahead as the one we have this weekend.”