Middlesbrough keeper Darren Randolph has warned his club-mates not to underestimate Sunderland in today’s Championship clash.
While hit-and-miss Boro are fighting for a play-off place, the Black Cats sit at the foot of the table, with just five wins all season.
But Ireland keeper Randolph is taking nothing for granted ahead of the Stadium of Light showdown.
The 30-year-old, who has kept two clean sheets against Sunderland this season, told mfc.co.uk: “You might look at teams in the bottom three of the table and think they’re not up to much.
“But if you allow any team in this division time on the ball to play the way they want to play, they have quality and can hurt you.
“You look through the Sunderland squad, and obviously they are having a disappointing season and are underachieving, but you can’t go there thinking it’s going to be a walk in the park.
“They’re not miles away from other teams in the table, and we aren’t either.
“We both need to win for different reasons.
“Again, we haven’t managed to put a run of wins together this season – but there is no better time to start as we come towards the end of the season.”
After Cats boss Chris Coleman insisted that the Sunderland-Boro clash is not a derby, Riverside chief Tony Pulis had his say on the subject.
“There’s a debate whether it’s a derby or not, but the big thing for me is the people out on the terraces and the streets determine whether it’s a derby or not,” said the 60-year-old.
“The players, whether it is a derby or not a derby, they should be going into this game full of confidence after a great win against Hull and really give it their best.”