MIKE Dodds thinks the international break is coming at a good time for his struggling Sunderland side, but first comes a "really important" game against QPR this weekend.

The Black Cats desperately need a result against Rangers to lift the mood on the back of six straight defeats.

Sunderland have slipped out of play-off contention and down the Championship table but Dodds is determined to ensure the season isn't written off and wants to finish on a high.

The interim head coach believes the opportunity of a breather during the coming international stoppage will benefit his side, but the two-week break will be a lot easier to negotiate on the back of a positive result this weekend.


QPR are in a relegation scrap but have improved since the appointment of head coach Marti Cifuentes and were unbeaten in four games prior to the weekend defeat to Middlesbrough.

"It is a big game, I'm fully aware of that," said Dodds, who has lost four games on the bounce since taking caretaker charge after the exit of Michael Beale.

"They've improved under the new coach. I've already watched a few of their games. They're really well organised out of possession so that will be a real challenge for us. But we have a full week to prepare. It's a really important game for us."

Sunderland have badly missed star man Jack Clarke in recent weeks but Dodds is hoping the winger will be close to returning after this month's halt in play.

He said: "The international break I think will be important for us as a group if I'm being completely honest, because after the international break hopefully we'll get some injuries back, which will lift everyone.

"Regardless of whether it's QPR or Southampton, there are no easy games and they all pose different challenges. QPR's style of play will be completely different to Southampton's. Our approach might have to be tweaked slightly because of that but we know we have to win sooner rather than later."

Adil Aouchiche is expected to return to the starting XI this weekend after two eye-catching cameos from the bench, while Nazariy Rusyn is likely to replace Chelsea loanee Mason Burstow up-front.