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Sunderland-Tottenham Hotspur Preview

AP - Sports

Sunderland Athletic will face a huge test in their bid to avoid relegation as they travel to north London on Monday evening to face Tottenham Hotspur.

Gus Poyet's Sunderland (6-7-17) are four points from safety, but have games in hand over all of the teams around them. However, the Black Cats have picked up just a single point from their last six games and have failed to beat fellow strugglers West Ham, Norwich, Crystal Palace and Hull in that run, leaving them facing relegation to the English second tier.

"We need to win three games somehow," Poyet said in his pre-match press conference. "The situation is simple. Nobody can see any of the bottom four or five winning three games. You need to go against that, and try to win three or four. I can't focus on what is coming after, because I can't think about it.

"We want no regrets and no excuses. I still believe that if we play the last eight games with the intensity we've played these last two, then we will win games."

Saturday's hosts (17-5-10) are at the opposite end of the table to Sunderland, but are in relative disarray heading into their season's run-in. The decision to replace Andre Villas-Boas with Tim Sherwood as Tottenham manager has backfired spectacularly, with the club's top-four chances now realistically over and reports surfacing of frequent unrest in the changing room - with most of the ire directed towards the inexperienced coach.

Last weekend's 4-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool summed up Tottenham under Sherwood, with the players showing a lack of effort and the team having an insufficiently tactically-secure shape to even attempt to deal with the threat posed by Luis Suarez and company.

Rumours continue to circulate Sherwood will be replaced in the summer, with current Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal expressing his desire to take over the role, but Sherwood insists that he is not feeling the pressure and expects to remain at the club.

"I know the media have got a job to do and the speculation is not going to end when you have other managers and national managers touting for your job," said Sherwood. "They are the ones who are fueling it.

"It is part of the course (sic) when you are managing a big club like Tottenham. I have got big enough shoulders - what I am supposed to do?"

Tottenham have injury doubts over Roberto Soldado (hamstring), Jane Vertonghen (ankle), Paulinho (conjunctivitis), Kyle Walker (groin), Etienne Capoue (ankle), Erik Lamela (back), Vlad Chiriches (back) and Emmanuel Adebayor (ankle). Sunderland have concerns over the fitness of Steven Fletcher (ankle) and Kieren Westwood (shoulder).

Spurs rallied for a 2-1 win when these teams met in December. Adam Johnson opened the scoring, but a Paulinho strike and a John O'Shea own goal turned the game in Tottenham's favour. The London club outshot their opponents 22-11.

Tottenham have won five of their last six against Sunderland in the league, with a scoreless draw at the Stadium of Light being the lone exception. The Black Cats have managed just two goals in their last five meetings with Spurs and have lost three of their last four at White Hart Lane.

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