There’s always a bit of light at the end of an aphotic tunnel.
Sunderland, it seems, live by the hopes of finding that very little gleam and somehow secure their status as a Premier League side every year despite wandering in the relegation scrap all season.
Fortunately for all the Sunderland fans, there’s no love lost between Sunderland and a failed relegation bid.
As it stands at the moment, a win against Everton – and that’s highly likely – would be enough to keep the Black Cats in the highest tier of English Football.
What else? Sunderland’s win would mean Tyneside rivals Newcastle United are relegated. Ouch.
For Everton, it’s now a matter of getting whatever they can out of another below-par season.
For all the talent they have up their sleeves, they have been unable to achieve anything this season other than a place in the feuilletons.
Roberto Martinez hasn’t had the best of times of late either and that’s only affecting him and the team with all the fans fuming at his sight; not a good news when you are trying to end the season on a high.
Surely, there’s something to fight for, for the Toffees?
Everton were in their better days when the two sides last met at Goodison Park.
The visitors were treated to a echt-Everton exhibition in attacking football, coming away with a 6-2 defeat as Arouna Kone netted a hat-trick.
That may not be the case this time, not with Roberto Martinez’s side adamant on conceding silly goals and the forward-line no way near the level it was some time back.
Sunderland may themselves be a poor defending side and not too potent up-front, but they are an efficient group that knows how to get the best out of themselves, thanks largely to Sam Allardyce.
They defend as one all game, play it the dirty way and hit you on the counter-attack, which is exactly how they beat Chelsea in a phenomenal 3-2 encounter last week at the Stadium of Lights.
Mind, Jermain Defoe might be taking his shirt off again later this Wednesday.
Quotes from big Sam Allardyce:
“The fans arriving early is more for our players than the opposition,” said Allardyce. “The cauldron of noise is about producing a reaction from your own players who are buoyed on by the outstanding support provided, and for a player that allows you to express yourself in a better manner.
“Both elements – the atmosphere and performance – came together to pull off a big, big result against Chelsea, but fans can’t come into Wednesday’s game with the expectation that it’s all done and dusted.”
He continued: “That’s not the case and it’s going to be just as difficult against an Everton side who are better away from home, and they also had a big knock back from Roberto [Martinez] following their performance against Leicester so I can’t see anything other than an instinctive response.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination so all elements need to come together once more to achieve the goal we’ve been searching for throughout the season, and that is staying in the Premier League.
“There was an outstanding commitment from the players on Saturday which the fans appreciated, and our pressing and energy, particularly from the midfielders and the front three, got the fans on the edge of their seat.
“We have to try and thrill the fans again on Wednesday night, but if it doesn’t quite go according to plan and it isn’t as exciting we all need to remember it is all about the result.”
and from Roberto Martinez:
“From our point of view, it’s about reacting from our performance against Leicester,” he said. “Two weeks ago we had a good response with a really good, determined performance to get a win over Bournemouth. Then we went to Leicester and got caught up in the atmosphere of celebrating a unique footballing achievement and that lack of intensity probably cost us.
“If you don’t reach a level of intensity, then it’s difficult to compete, whoever you’re playing against.
“We were playing against the champions, and the reason they are champions is because they play with such good tempo and momentum.
“But the reaction from us has been clear – not just this week but straight after the full-time whistle. We all have a strong desire to get back to our best level and tomorrow is the opportunity we have to show that.”
He added: “It’s Sunderland’s last home game [of the season] and they will see those three points as very important in what they want to achieve. The have found a really strong way of playing and they have been very consistent in their last six home games – only one defeat and they beat Chelsea at the weekend.
“They have found a consistent line up that works well for them. We will have to be ready. We have to react to our performance against Leicester which wasn’t up to the levels we expected. Clearly now the only focus is to get back to that character we showed against Bournemouth to get the winning feeling again.
“We all know that we have to start the game brighter and match the intensity of the opposition. We’ve got a really strong unit in that respect and we all want to be on the pitch and get rid of that feeling that we all shared after the game on Saturday.”