GUSTAVO POYET believes Sunderland can take heart from their performance at Anfield last night but he has already challenged his players to play like they are facing Barcelona at the Stadium of Light next Monday.
Sunderland's run without a win in the Premier League extended to five games when goals from Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez secured Liverpool a 2-1 victory on Merseyside.
The result, which saw Ki Sung Yueng pull one back 14 minutes before time, leaves the Black Cats sitting nervously in the relegation zone, three points adrift of safety with just nine matches remaining.
Sunderland, who were awful in losing 2-0 at Norwich City last weekend, could have pinched an unlikely point in the closing stages had John O'Shea not directed a free header wide.
But Poyet thinks it will count for nothing if they can't take the performance in to Monday's visit of West Ham United.
“Let's stop it now and focus on West Ham,” said Poyet. “It has to be against West Ham that we deliver. Any shape we have, any players we put on the pitch, it has to be against West Ham that we deliver.
“I am pretty sure they can take confidence from this. They have all worked hard, they should now believe after playing like this here that they can do it.
“We have done it against Steven Gerrard so we should do this every week. I don't know why we don't do it every week.
“We are not playing Barcelona, we are not playing Real Madrid, it is West Ham coming to the Stadium of Light on Monday. We need to go in with that mentality and get the result.”
After the visit of West Ham, Sunderland face Tottenham, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea so points are going to be hard to come by in the push to stay in the Premier League.
That is why he was quick to put the onus on collecting points against the Hammers after watching Sunderland perform reasonably well against a title contender last night – despite a rare change of system.
“I thought we did something nobody expected,” said Poyet. “The game was set up for a big party with four or five goals for the home team, with everybody celebrating after half an hour.
“But Liverpool couldn't score or create a chance in that time. They needed something special. The idea was to stay in the game.
“We had to believe in the system, we had never played this way before, we trained for four or five days like this, so it was all new but it shows when you understand in a certain way, you can put a team like Liverpool under pressure.
“The Liverpool fans were tense in the end. Why can't we do it at home. I am going to kill myself thinking of why we can't play like we did here against Liverpool against West Ham next week. Overall it was an unexpected performance.”
Poyet said he is 'hoping' not to change the formation again for the visit of West Ham, meaning he is likely to play with three centre-backs and two strikers.
He has already told Connor Wickham, who was recalled to the starting line-up against Liverpool following a loan at Leeds, he will be playing again.
“I promised him he will play Monday and after that will depend on him,” said Poyet, who will have Fabio Borini available again after he was ineligible last night.
“We needed something different and Connor gave us a good 70 minutes. The fans wanted him to play 90 minutes, but I don't want to judge him away at Liverpool so he will be playing against West Ham at home and we will see how he goes.”
While Sunderland have huge concerns over what division they will be playing in next season, Liverpool keep marching on.
It was the seventh consecutive win for the Reds, which has taken them to within a point of leaders Chelsea. There is also an 11-point gap to fifth spot, so Champions League football is set to return to Anfield next season.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose side were greeted to incredible scenes outside the stadium beforehand as thousands of fans lined the streets, said: “It's seven in a row now, which is a fantastic effort. We would like to be at the top but we can't complain. We are one point behind and we will get ready for the weekend (against Tottenham on Sunday).
“Our game started on the way here, it was like the 70s and 80s coming in here. The fans got us over the line tonight. It gave the players a real boost of energy to see that. We are doing it for them.
“They are a big part of our success this season. They are proud of what the players are producing at the moment.
“For us there is not the expectancy this year. People looked at us and probably expected us to tail off. For us the pressure is for ourselves because we are Liverpool, we are one of the biggest football clubs in the world. We want to win it and we are on that path.”