Sebastian Larsson will use the embarrassment of Sunderland’s humiliation at Aston Villa to fuel his bid to help them escape relegation trouble.
The 27-year-old Swede admitted he left the pitch at Villa Park last Monday suffering the same emotions as the travelling fans who witnessed the 6-1 horror show. However, he will channel all that into tonight’s home clash with Stoke as he and his team-mates attempt to secure the win manager Paolo Di Canio believed heading into the weekend would end their fears of being sucked back into the fight to avoid the drop.
Asked how they ensured a black night in the Midlands represented nothing more than a blip, Larsson said: “By making sure you feel that pain and how bad it feels. As for the fans, we probably feel the same. It’s that sickening feeling and embarrassing feeling.
“It is embarrassing to lose 6-1, and we have got to use that. We have gone through the game very clearly and we have got to focus really hard and make sure we come out fighting. It’s got to hurt a lot after a performance like this – and it does, trust me – but we have also got to remember the positives, what we had done in the previous weeks and what we can do and how solid we were.
“We looked very good and there’s no reason why we can’t get back to that. We have got to try to focus on our own performance. Yes, you do know how many points, you look for other scores, but at the end of the day, we have got it in our own hands to get to where we want to get to and if we do that, we don’t have to worry about the rest.”
The Black Cats go into the game just two points above the drop zone in the wake of 18th-placed Wigan’s 3-2 victory at West Brom on Saturday. Villa dragged themselves closer to safety with a 2-1 win at Norwich, while Newcastle collected a point from their 0-0 draw at West Ham to leave the Black Cats hovering anxiously above the bottom three.
In the circumstances, Sunderland need to take something, and ideally all three points, against Stoke in the latest of a series of fixtures labelled as “cup finals” by Di Canio.