Cardiff City-Sunderland Preview

The Associated Press

Gus Poyet got his miracle.

Now, he may have a chance to pull Sunderland closer to unexpected survival in the Premier League.

Fresh off the back of a stunning victory away to Chelsea, Poyet and the Black Cats will try to build on their momentum and capitalise on a timely meeting with fellow relegation battlers Cardiff City on Sunday.

Much of Sunderland's season has been abysmal, and the club seemed destined for a return to the Championship while wallowing at the bottom of the Premier League with little hope of survival.

Those chances were so bleak following a 5-1 pounding by Tottenham on April 7, that Poyet claimed the only way the Black Cats would remain in the top flight would be through divine intervention.

His prayers were answered, and in historic fashion.

Following a 2-2 draw at Manchester City on April 16, Sunderland went to Stamford Bridge and shocked championship contenders Chelsea by coming back in a 2-1 victory last weekend. It was the first time Chelsea lost at home in 78 matches under Jose Mourinho.

"We needed to do something special and we did it, we've broken a record," Poyet told the team's official website. "Some people maybe thought we had no chance, but we've given the fans a day to remember."

Another lasting memory could be in order, as Sunderland enter the weekend three points back of Norwich City for 17th place in the table and survival. They're also two points back of Cardiff (7-9-19) and Fulham, but the Black Cats have played one fewer match than all three of them.

After welcoming the Bluebirds to the Stadium of Light, Sunderland visit embattled Manchester United next weekend before hosting relegation-threatened West Brom and Swansea City to conclude the season.

"There's still a lot of hard work to do and there's four tough games ahead of us," forward Connor Wickham said. "We need to keep up these performances."

Wickham, 21, should be back in the first team since he's been a big part of Sunderland's recent success. He's scored with all three of his shots over the past two games, including one versus Chelsea before Fabio Borini got the decisive goal - a penalty in the 82nd minute.

Sunderland's first meeting of the season with Cardiff on Dec. 28 may have been a miracle of its own. Jack Colback scored five minutes into stoppage time after Steven Fletcher tallied in the 83rd minute to rally the Black Cats for a 2-2 draw.

Sunderland, though, has been outscored 5-1 during an 0-1-3 stretch at home, but Cardiff are among the worst away sides in the league at 2-4-11.

The Bluebirds, however, won 1-0 at Southampton in their most recent road match April 12. They followed that up by trading penalties in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City last weekend.

Cardiff's chances of avoiding relegation hinge on their success in a difficult final three games. After facing Sunderland, they'll visit Newcastle next weekend before capping the season at home versus Chelsea on May 11.

Like Poyet, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also calling for a miracle.

"We need to finish on more points than Sunderland and Fulham. We still believe in the Easter miracle - we are raising ourselves from the dead," he told the team's official website. "We need two very good performances in the next two games to give ourselves a chance."

Jordan Mutch could make a difference this week after he scored a goal and assisted on another by Frazier Campbell against Sunderland in December. The midfielder hasn't scored in three games after getting three goals and one assist in the previous two.