LIAM BRIDCUTT is no stranger to high-stakes encounters against Crystal Palace.
During the Sunderland midfielder’s time at former club Brighton, the south coast tussles against Palace were the closest thing to a derby at the Amex Stadium.
It wasn’t just local bragging rights on the line at the end of last season either, as Brighton faced Palace in the Championship play-offs - the second leg proving to be Gus Poyet’s last as Seagulls boss.
Bridcutt will be involved in another pressure cooker encounter against Palace this weekend, as Sunderland look to leapfrog Tony Pulis’ side in the relegation battle.
The £2.5million January signing hopes his experience of facing Palace in the Championship can provide Sunderland with some degree of insight on Saturday, but he realises the magnitude of the game for the second bottom Black Cats, as they face only their second Premier League outing in five weeks.
Bridcutt said: “It helps knowing Palace a bit better than some of the lads. I’ve played against them for a few years now.
“I know a few of their players, but with Gus and the video analysis team, we’ll know all about them and we’ve got a great opportunity to win this one.
“Every game now until the end of the season is a cup final for us.
“We’re not in too bad a situation, but we know that every game is massive and we’re going to have to start turning it around.
“We have to get the points on the board.”
Bridcutt will battle with Lee Cattermole to return to the starting XI against Palace after he was ineligible for the Capital One Cup final and an unused substitute in last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Hull.
The 24-year-old has featured just three times for Sunderland since arriving during the January transfer window and admits he needs a run of games to produce his best form.
“For me, and Gus knows this, I need as many games as I can get,” added Bridcutt.
“The more games I get, the better I become and I can get into a rhythm.
“Every day I’m learning and the last few weeks have been a massive learning curve.
“It was disappointing that I couldn’t play in the cup final and I wasn’t given an opportunity to play in the cup last week.
“But I’m here to learn, get better and progress.
“I’m always up for a challenge. I’m not the kind of player that wants everything given to me.
“I’m willing to work hard and get better.
“It’s always going to be tough coming to the Premier League, no matter if you’re at the top or the bottom end of the table.
“You have to compete to win points and that’s what we’ve got to do.”