Sunderland-Fulham Preview

The Associated Press

Gus Poyet will hope that a successful week of cup results will bolster his rock-bottom side ahead of Saturday's relegation six-pointer against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Sunderland (3-5-12) advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup with Sunday's 3-1 home victory over League One Carlisle. Adam Johnson and debutant El Hadja Ba scored and the Black Cats also benefited from an own goal. That set the stage for Tuesday's 2-1 home win over Manchester United in the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals that heaped more pressure on David Moyes. Poyet made eight changes to face the Red Devils, and Fabio Borini's second-half penalty gave Sunderland a slim advantage heading into Old Trafford.

"The atmosphere was incredible," Poyet told the club's official website. "Having the opportunity to play at this level in a semi-final against Manchester United and beat them is something that is important for everyone at the club.

"I'm sure it's going to bring a little bit of happiness to everyone in the camp."

Sunderland have one win, five defeats and four draws on their Premier League travels as they try to avoid a repeat of a 1-0 home defeat to Fulham in the league opener on Aug. 17.

''Whatever it is we need to bring it into the league very quickly,'' captain John O'Shea said. ''The players know we have plenty of quality, it's just making sure we use it at the right times.''

The Black Cats have 14 points while the Cottagers are hardly safe as they sit in 16th place on 19.

Neither Poyet nor Rene Meulensteen was in charge when these sides met in August, but it's Meulensteen who may have Fulham (6-1-13) on course now. The Cottagers have nine points from his seven games as boss and scored a critical 2-1 victory over 10-man West Ham United on New Year's Day.

Fulham will be the more rested club after a 1-1 draw with Norwich City in the FA Cup on Saturday.

"We know that the game against Sunderland is an important one," defender Elsad Zverotic told Fulham's official website. "It's so tight at the moment, and there are a lot of teams that need to fight their way out of where they are in the table."

United States international Clint Dempsey went the full 90 on Saturday in the first appearance of his second stint with the club. Dempsey, on loan from Seattle Sounders, could feature in his first Premier League match for Fulham since he scored 17 league goals two seasons ago before leaving for Tottenham Hotspur.

Dempsey's international teammate, Jozy Altidore, could be relegated to a place on the bench for Sunderland thanks to a strike-rate that has seen him score twice in 46 career Premier League games.

Altidore won't be needed to start since the Black Cats received good news on Steven Fletcher, who returned to training Thursday after he limped off against Manchester United.

"(Steven) is perfect, he trained today with no problems at all," Poyet said. "We're pleased there's no problem because as you can imagine we were a bit worried."

Dimitar Berbatov has scored in his last three Premier League games, returning against the Hammers after a three-game absence due to a groin injury.