GUS Poyet believes Manchester City’s early season stutter could be over, but he’s hoping for one more indifferent performance at the Stadium of Light this weekend.
The Blues have notched 12 goals in their last two games – beating Norwich 7-0 in the Premier League and CSKA Moscow 5-2 in the Champions League – to suggest an inconsistent start to the campaign is now behind them.
But Poyet feels that Sunderland are improving as a side and can offer a challenge to a team expected to be competing for the league title come May.
“It’s a special game for us,” he said. “It’s a big one for us and the fans and I’m hoping it is going to be a great day for us – this sort of game is what being in the Premier League is all about.”
Poyet admits it will be an uphill task for his players: “I’ve been here four games now and I’ve yet to see us keep a clean sheet – and now it is Manchester City!
“It’s not the greatest team for us to play against in those circumstances.
“But it could be amazing and the way football is, it would not be the biggest surprise in the world if this, of all games, turned out to be the one where we kept a clean sheet.
“I remember seeing the Ji Dong-won goal against Manchester City where he scored with the last kick of the game.
“Before that happened, the two things I was thinking was: ‘how are Man City not winning this?’ and, ‘what a great point for Sunderland this will be!’ and then up pops Ji with the winner.
“It was incredible and it just goes to show what can happen in football in general and this fixture in particular.”
Poyet knows how formidable City will be this weekend, even in Sunderland’s back-yard.
But he says first the Black Cats must compete, then they have to be bold if the occasion demands it.
“We will have a go at Man City,” he said.
“We have a good record against them at the Stadium of Light in the last few years and quite a few players in the squad this weekend will have been involved in those matches and can take confidence from them.
“We will see how it goes.
“It is not easy to defend against Man City, they are a side that can drag you around looking for mistakes.
“We have to work hard against them and concentrate on our own shape.
“We need to be as close to perfect as we can be and we have to hope we can unsettle them.
“The main thing is that you don’t give anything away cheaply – not a free-kick, or a goal-kick or a penalty or a foul – nothing.
“If Manchester City are to win, we have to make them win it, we have to make sure they work hard for their goals.
“But we also know they can be beaten – Cardiff City managed it early in the season and Sunderland have managed it several times here at home.”