Sam Allardyce has warned his players to expect a dangerous Everton side as Sunderland try to secure their Premier League status.
Victory for the Black Cats over Everton at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday would see them escape the drop and relegate Norwich and Newcastle with one game remaining.
Although Sunderland are the team facing relegation, the mood in their camp is rather more positive than that of their opponents.
Everton go into the clash on the back of an abject display in losing 3-1 to newly-crowned champions Leicester on Saturday and with manager Roberto Martinez under severe pressure from supporters.
But Sunderland boss Allardyce believes that makes the Toffees much more threatening, and he said: “We want to be fully focused to make sure we provide another outstanding performance to try to get the victory against Everton.
“I hope there’s not a feeling out there that this game is a foregone conclusion – it will be anything but that.
“Everton have been criticised for their performance against Leicester and I think that will get a reaction from the players and Roberto here. I think we will see Everton trying their very, very best to spoil our evening.”
Allardyce felt the tension had got to his players as they scraped a draw with Stoke two weeks ago but there were no such complaints at the weekend as they defeated Chelsea 3-2.
That made it eight points from four games for the Black Cats, and Allardyce is desperate to finish the job before the last game against Watford on Sunday.
He said: “I would like the players to try their very best to take the first opportunity to finish it off.
“We have slipped up in the time I have been here to being close to getting out of the bottom three before and staying out.
“We have only lost one in nine matches so our performance indicators are good but, again, with such a big pressure game, on the day, it’s will we be able to handle the pressure? Will we be able to deliver a performance at the highest level we can?”