Sunderland midfielder Jan Kirchhoff has identified the need to win home games as the key to the Black Cats’ Premier League survival.
David Moyes’ side are rock bottom in the league with 19 points from 27 games, and Kirchhoff has admitted that time is running out to secure the club’s Premier League status for next season.
The Black Cats have this weekend off owing to FA Cup fixtures elsewhere. They entertain Burnley at the Stadium of Light on 18th March before the international break kicks in.
Kirchhoff has been out injured for the majority of this season. He is set to return against Burnley after three months out with injury, and the 26-year-old German has emphasised the importance of Sunderland’s remaining home games in their battle against relegation.
“We have to try and win our home games and try to beat the teams we are able to … the upcoming games against Burnley, Watford and Leicester are three games where we have to try to get as many points as we can,” Kirchhoff told British media, as quoted by Reuters.
With only 11 games of the season remaining, Sunderland are left with an uphill task to survive.
“I feel like all the games coming up are massive games, but that is nothing new — we really need to start picking up points.
“It has been the same all season so nothing really has changed, just the pressure has got bigger and bigger because the opportunities to get the points we need are getting fewer and fewer,” Kirchhoff added.
One thing that might aid the Black Cats’ cause is that out of those 11 games, five are against fellow relegation strugglers. They face Bournemouth and Swansea at home and travel to Middlesbrough, Leicester and Hull.
With all those six-pointers still left to play, not all is lost for Kirchhoff and his team-mates. However, they have won only five games all season, although four of them have come against relegation rivals.
Their last win was a 4–0 result against Crystal Palace at the start of February, but since then, they have been beaten by Southampton, Everton and Manchester City. Not building on that Palace win has once again derailed Moyes’ men, and any recovery must start with the Burnley game.
Sunderland have become quite the experts in staving off relegation in the past few seasons. They have somehow crossed the finish line under Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce since the 2012/13 season but there have been no signs of that happening this time round.
With a slightly favourable fixture list, they have an opening, but as Kirchhoff said, opportunities are running out with each passing match.