HE has scored his fair share of important goals this season and Fabio Borini has revealed he relishes carrying the added expectation of being Sunderland’s prime match-winner on his shoulders.
The Italian may have only found the back of the net six times since his season-long loan move last September, but when he has, it has been a vital goal in high pressure situations.
His first was the winner in the Wear-Tyne derby defeat of rivals Newcastle, before two more came at crucial moments in the Black Cats’ amazing Capital One Cup run.
It was only fitting that the 22-year-old scored Sunderland’s only goal against Manchester City in the final at Wembley, but Borini’s record proves he is the man Gus Poyet can turn to in a time of need.
And there is no time like the present for the striker to continue his impressive habit of popping up at the right moment when the Wearsiders host Crystal Palace in a crucial match-up that could shape the destinies of both clubs at the bottom of the Premier League this afternoon.
With Jozy Altidore, Steven Fletcher and Ignacio Scocco struggling to make an impact when they play, Borini is one of the key players in a red and white shirt Poyet can count on. Shouldering the expectations of a city desperate to keep their top flight status intact is a characteristic that separates the men from the boys, but the Italian insists he thrives on that pressure.
“Now more that ever we have to be together and help each other, because it isn’t going to be easy,” Borini said. “There will be hard moments that we need to get through together. That’s the only way we can be because we don’t have a Cristiano Ronaldo in the team that can solve the game on his own. If we want to solve a game and win it we have to do it together.
“I’ve scored a lot of important goals and Saturday is an important game. It’s good for me. I like when there is expectation around you. It’s not forced, but you feel like you need to give that little bit more than the previous week. That’s how you improve and how the team improves. When they see you give a little bit extra they appreciate that.
“I’m happy to have the pressure on my shoulders, but to be honest Cristiano has scored 23 in 23 league games so he almost scores more than what he plays. I’ve scored six in 20 odd games. There are 12 games to go, but I can’t compare myself to him.
“I like the tension of these games, because it makes sure that you are focused and it always makes you think about the game. You can feel the tension at the training ground because we all want to win.
“All we are thinking about is the game and I like to have that pressure and that tension. I think we are all thriving on the challenge ahead of us.”
Sunderland return to Premier League action at the Stadium of Light for the first time since the beginning of February today. The chance to move out of the bottom three is at stake for Poyet’s side, and Borini insists the squad is well aware of the challenge ahead of them.
He said: “We just have one thing to think about now. The Premier League is the only thing that matters and counts for us and it’s really important that we get the result as quickly as possible and then see what happens.
“When you get to these games you don’t need to tell people how important it is because they recognise it and we can feel the tension. Obviously we’ve got 12 games left and there’s still a long way to go, but hopefully our league can start now and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Out of the 14 players that arrived on Wearside last summer, Borini has been one of very few success stories. The plan was always for the former Roma front man to return to Liverpool at the end of the season, but his future is something the 22-year-old would prefer not to discuss as he focuses on steering Sunderland away from trouble.
“I’m not thinking about the summer,” Borini revealed. “I could give you a different answer every day because I don’t really know what will happen, but I know I will give 100 per cent to make the decision in the summer easy.”