Cuellar feeling in peak condition ahead of big game
Having endured a difficult return from injury against Manchester City, Carlos Cuellar believes Sunday's Wear-Tyne derby is the perfect opportunity to put disappointing individual and team mistakes right.
The Black Cats suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Roberto Mancini's side thanks to goals from Aleksander Kolarov, Sergio Aguero and James Milner. The defeat was Cuellar's first appearance since the 1-1 draw with Liverpool in mid September and the Spanish defender got his return off to the worst possible start when he fouled Carlos Tevez in a dangerous position inside five minutes. Kolarov put the hosts ahead from the resulting free-kick and that gave Sunderland a huge mountain to climb if they were to get back into the game.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill's decision to recall the fit again Cuellar came at the expense of Titus Bramble, who had performed admirably in the proceeding win over Wigan. The international break has given time for the dust to settle after the defeat at the Etihad Stadium, and Cuellar admits he is relishing Sunday's derby against Newcastle to put his mistakes right.
"This is a good opportunity for me, it's a derby game." Cuellar said.
"The City game was the first one I played after my injury, but now I've had a bit more time to prepare and I feel great. I've got my fitness levels back and we were very disappointed at Manchester City, because after five minutes we were behind to a free-kick goal. But even so, we can take confidence from it, because we hung in there, we were good and we were strong."
"We have already showed how good we are defensively and how good we are attacking. We've had the opportunity to have a break to relax and prepare for the game on Sunday. We've had the opportunity to watch the mistakes we made in the other game. We're still working and improving and we'll try not to make those mistakes again."
"You have to learn from your mistakes, but in Spain we say you cannot take your skin off just because you make a mistake or lose a game."
Prior to the City defeat, Sunderland were unbeaten since the start to the new campaign and that was largely thanks to the combination of a strong back line and Steven Fletcher's goals. That all seemed to fall apart against the Premier League champions, though, but Cuellar insists they must not let one defeat affect the squad's confidence. He said:
"I think the confidence in the team is very high. When you lose everyone is unhappy but if you look at the table and you look at the games we have played before that you don't have to be scared or lose any confidence, because I think the team is doing very well."
Having played in Old Firm and Midlands derbies throughout his career, Cuellar admits he is relishing his first North-East derby and warns the squad they must not make the same mistakes when Newcastle come to the Stadium of Light on Sunday. The 31-year-old also admits little preparation is needed for derby games and that the squad are already champing at the bit to record their first win over their arch-rivals since 2008. He said:
"We were doing so well before and when you make a mistake you have to learn from it and make sure you don't do it again, because we're playing Newcastle next we don't have to prepare too much. We'll all be ready and waiting for the game."
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