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Sunderland boss in no mood for excuses as he looks to strengthen
GUS POYET does not want his players to use a lack of recovery and preparation time as an excuse for any failings when Sunderland look to win back-to-back Premier League games for the first time this season later today.
As work goes on behind the scenes to make progress on the transfer front, with Fiorentina defender Marcos Alonso keen to accept a January loan switch to England, Poyet has had to take his players from Merseyside to South Wales.
The Black Cats, and opponents this evening Cardiff City, face the unusual situation of playing two top-flight fixtures in the space of 50 hours when they go head-to-head in South Wales.
It is a meeting of two clubs heading in to the game on the back of contrasting Boxing Day fortunes; given Sunderland surprised top four chasing Everton with a 1-0 win while Cardiff lost 3-0 at home to Southampton.
Sunderland's success at Goodison Park should have given Poyet's squad a real fillip approaching the turn of the year and in their battle to climb to Premier League safety.
And he does not want to hear any of his players bemoaning the fact they have had two testing away dates – the second of which is a 630-round trip by road from the Stadium of Light - and wants to see another positive result.
The Sunderland head coach has seen a few false dawns already since taking over from Paolo Di Canio in October.
“The win at Everton has to change the players' mentality. It has to. There are no more excuses,” said Poyet. “We played very well at West Ham and didn't concede, we beat Chelsea in the Capital One Cup and then drew with Norwich at home when we really needed to win it.
“We didn't perform that day and somehow we got to Goodison and kept a clean sheet, even with two new centre-halves. So there are no excuses. I am a person who likes to see the team out on the pitch without any excuses.
“I don't want to hear about the flight not being on time, or the bus being late, or there was a party going on in the hotel. I don't want to hear any of that. I want to put the team on the pitch without any excuses. This Saturday, apart from a few heavy legs because we worked hard at Everton, I don't want to hear any excuses.”
It has become a regular occurrence in English football for managers to criticise the festive fixture list. To be asked to play two away games in a little more than two days, however, is extreme and harsh on Sunderland.
Poyet said: “I believe the success of this season will be down to games such as the one against Cardiff coming up. But what will happen on Saturday, who knows?
“Whoever organised our fixtures, to make us come to Goodison on Boxing Day and then down to Cardiff two days later, I just don't know … maybe it was our enemy. Why not play on Sunday or Monday? Did it have to be on December 28?”
In many respects it could actually be good for Sunderland to be back in action so soon after the impressive victory at Everton, where the character of the dressing room shone through as the Toffees pushed on in search of an equaliser.
The victory arrived on the back of goalless draws with West Ham and Norwich – as well as sealing a Capital One Cup semi-final place with a victory over Chelsea – and Wearside hopes of climbing out of the relegation zone are higher than at any stage of the season.
Poyet said: “The confidence should be high because we haven't lost in the last four, although I'm sure nobody remembers that. We have had two draws and two wins. The wins against Chelsea and Everton shows that if we can maintain that, we are a difficult team to beat. We have to be like that on Saturday, January 1 against Aston VIlla and again on January 11 at Fulham in our next two Premier League games.”
Italian sources have suggested that Alonso, 22, and formerly of Real Madrid, is due on Wearside before New Year's Day ahead of a return to the Premier League, where he played for Bolton before leaving last summer. The left-back is expected to join Sunderland until the end of the season.
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