Poyet won't accept any excuses
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has warned his players they have "no excuses" as they bid to build on their midweek Capital One Cup heroics by claiming a crucial Barclays Premier League win over Norwich.
Poyet is convinced the Black Cats' extra-time win over Jose Mourinho's Chelsea can be the spur they need to start the long haul towards top-flight safety provided they show the mental strength required to see it through.
Poyet said: "When you play a top team like Chelsea if you lose in extra-time you are devastated and take maybe two weeks to recover - but if you win you feel stronger and ready to play.
"We want to take that result as a great boost of confidence into this game on Saturday. It's a game we go into with no excuses and that is how I like to see my players go out onto the pitch."
Poyet is all too aware of the previous false dawns during his brief period in charge, with his side failing to capitalise either on the derby win over Newcastle or the 1-0 success over Manchester City.
And with his side already resigned to spending Christmas at the bottom of the pile, Poyet is not under-estimating the importance of a game he knows most people around the club will expect them to win.
"We have always been looking for that key important game and now it's this one," Poyet added. "We keep dreaming about when it's going to happen and I would like to say after this game that it is the turning point in our season."
Poyet has no new injury concerns after the win over Chelsea, with Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback both available again after illness and only Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cuellar still sidelined.
The stigma of being bottom of Christmas and the reputation for such a position almost guaranteeing relegation - only West Brom have survived - is one of which Poyet is only too aware.
"The position is not nice but I don't try to hide it," said Poyet. "If one team has done it then so can somebody else and we hope it's going to be us. But we have to make sure we do it as soon as possible.
"We need to get involved with the other teams who are close by so we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, then it will be possible. If we keep staying six or seven points behind it will be hard.
"It's going to be tough but we need to make sure we do the right things ourselves first. We can't keep thinking about our position otherwise it is impossible to win games.
"We need to address a few things and concentrate on doing our bit."
Norwich manager Chris Hughton always felt Poyet was cut out to make the transition into management, but he will be all set to halt Sunderland's Premier League revival before it can get started at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The Uruguayan - who left Brighton last summer having guided them to the Championship play-offs - took over on Wearside in October after Paolo di Canio's colourful reign was brought to an end.
Poyet masterminded memorable victories over first Newcastle and then Manchester City before his hard-working side recorded a 2-1 extra-time win over Chelsea in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night, to book a semi-final date with Manchester United.
Hughton - who coached Poyet when they worked together at Tottenham - feels the 46-year-old has all the traits to become a successful manager, but will be out to use his own experiences to record another positive result for the Canaries.
"Gus was a wonderful player, but was always very passionate about the way he played the game and his thoughts on the game, so it was no surprise to me that he went into coaching and management," Hughton said.
"The biggest task for him at Sunderland was he had a lot of players who had been brought in during the summer by the previous manager.
"Gus' responsibility now will be to put his own stamp on the team and I am quite sure he will do that."
Hughton added: "Sunderland will be boosted to have got through to the semi-finals of the League Cup, but we have to look at ourselves.
"We are on the back of a good performance against Swansea, when we looked to win the game after going a goal down, and also off a good away result at West Brom, so we want to keep the momentum ourselves."
After a terrible opening to the new season, which saw six defeats from 10 Premier League matches, and heavy defeats away to both Manchester City and then Liverpool, Norwich have in recent weeks started to produce encouraging displays.
Indeed three points at Sunderland could lift the Canaries up into the top half of the table, but Hughton knows there has to be a sense of caution as they go in search of a second straight away win.
"It is always a balance, because you know they have enough good players that if you do not perform, they can hurt you," the Norwich manager added.
"You have to be in the game yourself and give yourself an opportunity to win it.
"You have to set your team up knowing you are away from home, so you have to be resilient enough not to conceded, but also you have to score goals to win it."
Hughton - who spent some B#20million in the summer to bolster his squad - will have more attacking options now club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel is finally fit from a toe problem while Scotland winger Robert Snodgrass has shrugged of his knee injury.