Rallying call from Mannone
Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone has urged his team-mates to buy into new manager Gus Poyet's philosophy to drag the club out of trouble.
Since he replaced Paolo Di Canio at the helm, the Uruguayan has attempted to instil a belief in his players on the ball to prevent opposing teams from dominating possession.
The plan worked to its best effect yet in Wednesday night's Capital One Cup fourth-round victory over Southampton, and while the Barclays Premier League remains the over-riding priority, the trend is at least positive.
Mannone said: "Every one of us has to have character to take charge of the situation and of the ball and try to play this football.
"The manager, since he came in, has had a mentality he has tried to install in our heads to play football and keep the ball a little bit more and calm down games, because the more we have the ball, the less we have to defend against the opposition and the less we concede as well."
Whether or not the Black Cats can reproduce the same kind of form this weekend remains to be seen as they face the daunting challenge of attempting to stifle free-scoring Manchester City at the Stadium of Light.
Poyet said: "We have been trying to adapt to what I think is better to win football matches.
"Especially against the top teams when you play, you need to impose your game as well because if you just play one way, they will beat you.
"They are better than you, they have got more quality, they have got better players, so you need to have a style, whatever it is.
"Mine and the one I believe in is caring about the ball a lot, never giving it away cheaply, just giving it back to them because you know you will never get it back.
"We showed some action on Wednesday, the way that we want to play, and slowly I am sure we are going to get better."
Sunderland, of course, have won only one of their 10 league games to date, and while victory against arch-rivals Newcastle may have given their campaign fresh impetus, that was dented when they went to Hull last weekend and lost by the only goal as Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena were sent off.
They remain in 19th place in the table and five points adrift of safety, and even the most optimistic member of the red and white faithful would not be banking on that situation changing markedly this weekend.
Poyet will be forced to make changes to the side which started at the KC Stadium with Cattermole and Dossena suspended, although Keiren Westwood is fit again after a head injury, leaving his manager with a tough decision with Mannone having performed well as his deputy against the Saints.
Poyet said: "He did well. I have got a big decision to make, which is good for me.
"I don't know how good it is for those two, but that's what I want, a proper, strong, fair, competitive situation between every single player in the squad, and the goalkeepers are the same.
"It's a big decision."
Should Mannone retain his place, he could find himself at the opposite end of the pitch to Romanian Costel Pantilimon, the beneficiary of City and England keeper Joe Hart's recent travails, after he got the nod for last Saturday's 7-0 thumping of Norwich.
The 25-year-old Italian said: "It's strange how at times, it all happens in one weekend and a few keepers get an opportunity, but I am really happy I got mine.
"But we need to stay together as a team because it's a big game on Sunday. It's another great game."
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