Sunderland V Everton at Stadium of Light : Match Preview
Sunderland V Everton - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Di Canio backing for Graham
Paolo Di Canio has backed striker Danny Graham to help drag Sunderland out of relegation trouble, even if he does not break his scoring duck.
The 27-year-old, a #5million January signing from Swansea, is yet to find the back of the net in eight appearances for his new club, and with leading scorer Steven Fletcher ruled out for the rest of the campaign, he is the only frontman with Barclays Premier League experience at the Italian's disposal.
However, Di Canio saw enough in Graham's individual display in Sunday's 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle, during which he was denied what looked likely to be a certain goal when he was hauled back by Steven Taylor in an incident which was missed by referee Howard Webb, to believe he will play a key role during the remaining five games of the campaign.
Asked if Graham's personal drought had affected his confidence, the 44-year-old said: "It can happen, but to him it didn't happen because I have seen him really focussed and in a good mood.
"That proved that even if sometimes strikers are selfish - they have to be selfish sometimes, but not too much, because when they are in front of the goal, I don't want to see tippy-tappy, I want see them strike and destroy the goal.
"But the fact that he is in a good mood, he has proved to me that he is intelligent, that first of all, it's the team.
"We won, we won in style. He feels the cause and he is full of confidence. I'm sure it doesn't affect him that he hasn't scored since he came here because he is sure now.
"Sometimes people don't understand - strikers have to score goals. But sometimes they are crucial even if they don't touch one ball, in my opinion, and Graham did this job and was amazing.
"But I am sure that before the end of the season, he is also going to score important goals."
That Graham was not needed to register for the first time at St James' Park was testament to the efforts of Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and David Vaughan, who all scored from distance as the Black Cats cut loose.
Amid all the euphoria of a famous day on Tyneside, no-one within the Sunderland camp is losing sight of the fact that the club is still fully engaged in a battle for top-flight survival, or that defeat by Champions League-chasing Everton at the Stadium of Light tomorrow could undo much of the good work.
The Black Cats have not beaten the Toffees in 19 attempts in all competitions, 16 of them in the league, since December 2001.
Di Canio said: "I love, I have to be honest, the way they [Everton] play because there is a clear identity from the manager. The only problem is how to damage them.
"We have done the right things in the last few days and we are ready to try to get the best result we can."
Everton manager David Moyes feels his team's need for points is just as big as Sunderland's this weekend.
The Toffees travel to the Stadium of Light still in the chase for Champions League places while the Black Cats are in trouble at the opposite end of the Barclays Premier League.
Everton remained four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal after drawing with the Gunners in midweek and, with five games left, can still force their way in.
Sunderland, although apparently rejuvenated by the arrival of Paolo Di Canio as manager, are still just three points above the relegation zone.
Moyes said: "Our need is as great, from our point of view.
"We have got to keep winning and we will have to try that again at Sunderland.
"When people are asking me if we are still in the hunt for Europe, I am pleased about that."
Everton will give a fitness test to midfielder Leon Osman (groin), with youngster Ross Barkley again set to deputise as he did at the Emirates Stadium.
Midfielder Craig Gardner will be missing for Sunderland as he completes a two-game ban, while Connor Wickham remains a doubt due to a knock.
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