Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill: Big game for us against Norwich City
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Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has described next Sunday's Premier League visit of Norwich City as 'a big, big game for us'.
The two sides meet in the televised fixture at the Stadium of Light (1.30pm), with the Black Cats looking to bounce back from a run of four defeats in five league games.
They were beaten 3-1 at bottom club Queens Park Rangers on Saturday after going in front through Steven Fletcher's 11th goal of the season, Rangers hitting back thanks to Loic Remy, a stunning Andros Townsend goal and Jermaine Jenas.
Rangers boss Harry Redknapp believes 37 points will be enough to avoid the drop, a theory which would leave Sunderland and the Canaries still scrapping to get over the line.
'We have 30 on the board,' said former Norwich boss O'Neill. 'He was speaking from a position of having 20, so you have to try to win those games.
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'His team needed 17 from the last 10. That is European form. We need to start winning, really. I think next week is a big, big game for us.
'We have difficult fixtures coming up, including Norwich. We have our work cut out. We have known that since the start of the season.
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'It has been tough going throughout the season and we have to fight through these last nine games.
'I was asked about being close to 10th and close to being relegated yesterday. It will be like that until the end of the season.'
Sunderland have back-to-back home games against Norwich and leaders Manchester United and O'Neill is aware his squad need to battle.
'We need to get some points on the board,' he said.
'The players in the dressing room are disappointed but we're looking to respond as we have done before.'
O'Neill added that the Loftus Road trip was 'always going to be a difficult game for us'.
He said: 'QPR were buoyed by their win over Southampton last week and we had to counteract that and deal with the swell of euphoria from the crowd, which I thought we did well. We put ourselves in front and it was a wonder goal from them to take the game to 2-1.
'It came to him (Townsend) outside the penalty box and he volleyed it into the net. But it was disappointing for us.'
Sunderland v City has become a regular TV choice. The honours were shared last season when Paul Lambert's team won 2-1 at Carrow Road but lost the return fixture 3-0.
This season's first encounter, in December, was a 2-1 home win for Chris Hughton's men thanks to goals from Sébastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington, with Craig Gardner replying for Sunderland.