WES BROWN says Sunderland’s packed fixture list during the relegation run-in helps, rather than hinders, his chances of staying fit.
Centre-half Brown has proved to be a pivotal member of Gus Poyet’s starting XI since returning from 17 months on the sidelines last November.
But Brown still needs to take a cautious approach on the training field over the knee injury which almost brought a premature end to the 34-year-old’s career.
And with Sunderland facing three midweek games before the end of the season - starting with tonight’s trip to Liverpool - Brown says it is far better for him to be playing competitive football than facing the minefield of the training field.
He said: “Playing three games a week is probably better for me.
“The next day is a warm-down and then it’s a light session, which in a way, is a lot easier.
“If you’ve got two or three hard days, long sessions, in a week, it can take its toll on my knees.
“Ask anyone, if you play a game, it does so much more for you than anything in training.”
Sunderland’s trip to the Premier League title contenders is the first of the Black Cats’ games in hand on their relegation rivals.
But while the fate of Gus Poyet’s side is still in their own hands after playing at least two fewer games than their fellow strugglers, they face an uphill challenge to add to their points tally against Liverpool.
Only two teams - Southampton and Aston Villa - have come away from Anfield with anything to show for their efforts this season, while Sunderland have taken just one point from the last four league games, culminating in Saturday’s woeful display at Norwich City.
But Brown hopes Sunderland can follow on from several bright performances against the top six this season, including wins over Manchester City and Everton, plus Chelsea in the Capital One Cup.
“The teams at the top are obviously going to look to win the games straightaway, and at times, that does leave gaps in the defence,” added Brown.
“But they’ve got such quality that when it comes to attacking, they can produce all sorts of things.
“We’ve still got some of the big teams to play and I’m sure everyone is thinking they’ll win, but those are games we’ve been playing well in this season.
“I think we can still obviously get out of it.
“But you can have as many games as you want, if you don’t win them, you’re going to stay in the same position.
“We still know it’s in our hands and that’s the main thing.”