PAOLO DI Canio believes victory against Everton this weekend would boost Sunderland’s hopes of avoiding an end-of-season nail-biter.
Sunderland created a three-point buffer with the relegation zone after ending their three-month winless run at Newcastle last weekend.
But the Black Cats still require two more wins to reach the magical 40-point mark, annually seen as the total needed to remain in the Premier League.
Head coach Di Canio is braced for the relegation scrap to go to the final throws of the season, but believes a second successive top flight win against Everton on Saturday would reduce Sunderland’s prospects of going to the wire.
Di Canio said today: “We know we’re going to suffer until the end of the season.
“I hope we can do it (get safe) one or two games early, but it might be the last game or the last game at home.
“If we win this game, it would make a difference.
“We have to remember that we’re still close to the relegation zone and in a difficult position.
“It was a very good step last week. A small, but good step.
“I’m trying to change a bit of our mentality and they’ve already done very well over the last few weeks.
“But we still have a problem because we are close to the relegation zone.
“We have to make sure that everybody, even if we draw and don’t play a fantastic match, doesn’t lose their confidence.”
Di Canio immediately stressed to his players at St James’s Park that there was far more work to be done in Sunderland’s survival mission.
But he has been encouraged by the focus of his squad on the training pitch this week after the euphoria of derby success.
Di Canio added: “Obviously the day after Newcastle, there was a very good mood here. It was fantastic for the players.
“But I was happy two days later when we started again with the training sessions together because I saw them focused towards the next match.
“I haven’t known them for years so I didn’t know how they were going to react.
“But the work they’ve done over the last few days has made me really happy because they’ve looked really focused towards the next match.”