PAOLO Di Canio says Southampton’s away record this season shouldn’t mask the quality in the Saints’ ranks.
Southampton have won just three times on the road since their promotion from the Championship, with two of those victories coming at relegated Reading and QPR, and the other against fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
But Di Canio has been impressed by the attacking quality of Mauro Pochettino’s side, who will be without suspended £12m Uruguayan Gaston Ramirez on Sunday.
And he points out that the statistics are hardly overwhelmingly positive for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this season either, with the Black Cats mustering just five wins on home turf.
The head coach said: “They have won only three away games, but they are capable of winning against any side away.
“They have quality and intelligent attacking footballers.
“They will be a very difficult side to face, and we have to be careful because we don’t have a fantastic record at home this season ourselves.
“It’s a big challenge.
“They always try to play attacking football, and they can change their system.
“People like (Adam) Lallana, (Guly) do Prado, and the two up front are dangerous players.”
Di Canio acknowledges that it is top scorer Rickie Lambert, who is the Saints’ big threat, with the Scouser netting 14 times in his maiden season in the top flight after a career spent in the lower leagues.
“Lambert is a danger man,” said Di Canio.
“He’s had a big season, and scored a few goals.
“He’s an important player for them, and has proved himself after coming from a background that is not at the top level.
“He deserves to play at the top level now, at a good club.
“He’s proved that he can stay for a long time in the Premier League, if he has desire obviously.
“He’s a typical English striker, with physical presence, quality and ability.”
Meanwhile, Di Canio believes Sunderland supporters can play a big part in backing the Black Cats on Sunday to the victory which would secure their Premier League status.
The Stadium of Light has been raucous during Di Canio’s first two home games in charge against Everton and Stoke, and with Sunderland’s ranks growing increasingly depleted, the Italian says the atmosphere can help the players.
Di Canio added: “The protagonists are the players, but unfortunately at the moment, we need something more so the fans are crucial.
“The fans give you extra adrenaline. We know what it means to play in front of 40,000 who push for you.
“Even a chiwawa can become a rottweiler!”