Sunderland raring to go against Chelsea and Spurs, insists Fletcher

The Northern Echo: ENJOYING THE BATTLE: Steven Fletcher in action against Manchester City last month ENJOYING THE BATTLE: Steven Fletcher in action against Manchester City last month

BACK-TO-BACK games against Chelsea and Tottenham is far from ideal when you’re trying to get away from trouble, but Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher insists the squad has nothing to fear in the next five days.

The Black Cats entertain Jose Mourinho’s title contenders at the Stadium of Light tomorrow night before entertaining Andre Villas Boas’ out-of-sorts Spurs on Saturday evening.

Sunderland moved off the bottom of the Premier League table following Saturday’s goalless draw at Aston Villa, but they sit five points from safety and are in desperate need of putting a run together over the next few weeks.

Mourinho brings his Blues side to Wearside having won five of their last nine games, but Fletcher insists the squad is looking forward to testing themselves against the best despite their precarious position.

“I think we look forward to those games,” the striker said. “If you don’t want to play against Chelsea and Tottenham then you shouldn’t be here.

“We’re raring to go against them. We seem to be alright when we play the top four.”

Fletcher appears to have finally put the injury problems that have hampered his season behind him, but the striker has failed to find the net since Sunderland’s win over rivals Newcastle in October.

The former Wolves front man has only two goals to his name this season but he has largely been played as Sunderland’s only centre forward even if Poyet started Fabio Borini at the weekend.

The 26-year-old admits he prefers playing alongside another striker as opposed to on his own, but he understands Poyet won’t always opt to do that against certain teams.

He said: “It makes it easier when you’ve got someone next to you when you take the ball and you’ve got a simple pass rather than a 20 yard pass.

“I think against Hull I only had a 40 yard pass on, but it is easier when I’ve got someone up top with me. Especially someone like Jozy, who is strong and powerful and can take all the knocks while I stay away from them and try to get in positions to score.”

Altidore has lost his place in the starting line-up recently and Fletcher believes he and the American striker need to do better.

“I think we both need to be scoring more,” Fletcher said. “Jozy scores countless times in training everyday so I don’t think it’s bothering him at all, but I think he’s not had many chances to be honest. “It’s not as if he’s missing chance after chance, he’s not getting many but when he does I think he will put one away soon and I’m the same. I just want to put as many away as I can.”

Poyet is hoping John O’Shea can overcome a knock ahead of tomorrow night’s game. The Republic of Ireland international had to play through the pain in the last few minutes of the draw at Villa Park as the Black Cats had already made three changes.

Poyet is also mindful Wes Brown has played a lot of minutes since returning from almost a year out through injury, but the Black Cats boss may have no choice but to field the defender again should O’Shea miss out.

Valentin Roberge and Carlos Cuellar are waiting in the wings should they be called upon, while Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback will be desperate to win their places in the side back.

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