SUNDERLAND tonight embark on the first of the ‘Big Three’ fixtures which will help define their season, says Gus Poyet.
The Black Cats face Stoke City at the Stadium of Light this evening, followed by Newcastle United on Saturday and Hull City the following weekend.
And Poyet says these three games mark a moment of destiny in Sunderland’s season which clarify exactly what sort of Premier League season the club will have in the remainder of the campaign.
“They are massive for us,” he told SpotMail. “So important, and starting with Stoke tonight.
“What we do in these next three games will tell us what we face for the remainder of the campaign.
“And if we don’t do well [against Stoke and Newcastle] then the Hull one is going to absolutely huge for us.”
Poyet has no qualms about stating the importance of the sequence.
“I don’t like to call them cup finals,” he told SportMail. “I was asked a few weeks ago whether a certain game was a cup final and I said ‘no’ because it is not a phrase I like to use.
“But now we are in the moment of truth and I don’t mind what people call it because these are the games and the Stoke one is the first one and so it is the most important right now.”
Poyet says that his players need, in particular, to put behind them their indifferent home form.
“It is time we won at home and put ourselves in a better situation,” he said. “It has been a good revival for us in the last month and of course we have been going well in the cups but not winning at home since Newcastle in October.
“It is too long and one of the issues we need to pay attention to, is our home record.
“We know how strong Stoke are and what they can do.
“We need to do better, we need to put the ball in the box with a bit more quality and we need to show what we can do in front of our home fans – I want to make the game a little more special.
“I know that sometimes it can be a mental battle. But when you are on the pitch, it is not in your head, it is just playing.
“You must play to the best of your ability and you must compete and if we do that then we have a good chance of starting these three games well.”