Poyet thinks Sunderland's fixtures problems are "embarrassing"

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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

GUSTAVO POYET thinks the uncertainty surrounding Sunderland's fixture list is “embarrassing” for the Football Association and he is ready to instruct his players to do everything they can to avoid a fifth round replay today.

Provided Sunderland do not lose to Southampton in this lunch-time's FA Cup tie at the Stadium of Light it will be the first of a guaranteed 16 matches facing Poyet's team in the remaining 86 days of the campaign. And while the number of games in such a space of time does not necessarily pose a problem at this stage, there are question marks littering the schedule over when games will take place.

Sunderland already have to rearrange Premier League dates with West Bromwich Albion, who they were due to face on the weekend of the Capital One Cup final, and Manchester City, following last Wednesday's late postponement.

But if Sunderland avoid defeat against the Saints then that will create a number of other hurdles for the FA in arranging a replay or sixth round tie.

A draw this afternoon will likely mean a replay being played on the weekend of the sixth round starting March 8, so any sixth round tie would have to be scheduled at its own later date.

And at the moment the Liverpool Premier League game on Monday, March 10 is pencilled in, so that would automatically have to be rearranged if either the Reds or Sunderland are in the hat for Sunday's draw.

Poyet said: “They’re saying it’s better for you to lose on Saturday in the FA Cup. And then I’ll get criticised and we lose two in a row and you’re terrible now, the confidence is down before the final. You have to play for a win.

“But I would like to know clearly what the date of the replay is, and the next round, so if you win now, you’re going to play on this date, and what the date of the replay is. I almost hope we have a replay so we can laugh about the date.

“There is also things like we can’t play on the next Tuesday or Wednesday because they’re Champions League nights. It can only be the Monday or Thursday. Is that normal?

“To play on the Monday after playing Arsenal or the Thursday before the cup final? Come on!”

It is not the amount of games creating the headache for the Sunderland boss, it is the lack of preparation and planning he can do for the games which is frustrating him.

“If Man City draw on Saturday, when will they play their replay? Saturday before the Capital One Cup final on Sunday, March 2? It should already have been decided a long time ago,” said Poyet. “The European fixtures come out altogether and you know the weeks you have got in between.

“I don’t want to be in a situation where I don’t know. If you find a manager in a position where he doesn’t know what to do, they will probably get the sack. But because there is no manager that decides on the fixtures, nobody will get the sack. For me, it is embarrassing, not to know when we will have to play a replay if we have to play. It is embarrassing.”

Knowing how much Sunderland could do without avoiding a replay today, Poyet is seriously thinking about throwing everything at sealing a dramatic victory in the closing stages against Southampton if the tie is heading for a draw.

He said: “We will try to win it without being stupid. It’s difficult to tell the players not to leave anyone back and just go forward. But you can put money on it being a draw! Should we treat the competition like it is or go and just play one game like in the Capital One Cup, no replays.”

Firstly Poyet must try to devise a plan to overcome Southampton. He is a big admirer of the Saints' style under Mauricio Pochettino and knows it will be a tough test on Wearside.

Poyet had been planning to leave a few of his first team regulars out just a few days after the trip to Manchester City. The postponement of that game, however, has changed his thinking even if he will be giving a debut to Ignacio Scocco in attack and recalling Emanuele Giaccherini.

“Because of the situation we are in in the league, and the game on Wednesday being postponed, the team we we're going to play on Saturday was going to be totally different, I can tell you,” he said.

“There are things I need to see, so it’s not going to be exactly the same. But there will be players we need to use, like Giaccherini and Nacho (Scocco). We need them and there are a few of them that are going to be playing. But we’re doing it for a different reason, not just to play individually.

“Nacho is going to have his first taste of English football. We are going to need to help Nacho to feel the pace of the game.

“I am sure the first ten minutes it is going to be ‘oh my god, what’s going on here’. The more he does that, the more we are going to be able to use him in the future. He’s not 100 per cent, that’s for sure, but he’ll play because we need him to as a way of getting fit.”

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