PAOLO Di Canio says opponents Crystal Palace are facing a “must-win” game when Sunderland visit Selhurst Park tomorrow (kick-off 5.30pm).
And he says that for that reason the Black Cats have to be prepared for a real battle as the Eagles look to finally give their season lift-off.
The Londoners have lost all three games they’ve played this season – league matches against Spurs and Stoke and a Capital One Cup tie at Bristol City on Tuesday night.
And the Sunderland head coach is under no illusions that, with Palace’s next opponents being Manchester United at Old Trafford, they will have targeted the Sunderland game as one where victory is essential.
“Crystal Palace made 11 changes for their cup tie and that could not be a clearer indication where their priorities lie – they want to get points in the league, to save their strength for that.
“They know that if they don’t win against us, that that doesn’t mean they won’t stay up, because this is still the start of the season.
“But it is obvious that a home game against a team around them, they will regard as crucial.
“I don’t want to be arrogant but I feel that even if we lose another one or two, we have the squad to cope.
“But when you are newly-promoted, you need to get that first win on the board otherwise players become anxious and fans become anxious and then you have big problems.
“So for them it is a ‘must-win’ game and we have to be ready for that because it is also important for us to win and to get our first league victory of the season.
“We will go there looking for the win in the game, even though we accept we might draw or lose.
“But we know Palace’s strengths and weaknesses and we will prepare a good strategy but what is key is the players’ attitude - they have to be completely focused because we know we are going to find a very hard environment.”