Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce sets sights on big-name scalp
Sam Allardyce has admitted Sunderland have to shock one of the Barclays Premier League big boys if they are to stay in touch with the race for survival.
The Black Cats currently lie in 19th place in the table four points adrift of safety and facing yet another scrap to drag themselves out of trouble with time running out fast.
They welcome Manchester City to the Stadium of light on Tuesday evening before heading for Liverpool at the weekend and entertaining Manchester United seven days later, a run of fixtures which would send a shiver down the spine at the best of times.
Sunderland have made something of a habit in recent seasons of pulling off unexpected results against Premier League aristocrats with campaigns drawing to a close, with both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal having suffered at their hands.
Asked if his team could draw upon that experience, Allardyce said: "Somewhere in the next three games, we have got to pull one of those games off - more if we can, hopefully. It would be a pretty miraculous run if we pulled off two victories in these three fixtures.
"It would be fantastic if we could do that, but certainly if we could get one and upset one of the big boys and get one victory out of the three, that would lift everybody.
"But for me, how many positive results can we get? We have got to get a result in two out of the three games, or we have got to try to get at least one win out of the three games if we want to stay in touch."
Allardyce has repeatedly bemoaned his side's inability not to lose games they cannot win - they recorded their first draw under his charge in 16 attempts against Bournemouth last time out - and that his why his early focus during the January transfer was on his rearguard.
Former Lorient defender Lamine Kone and fellow new arrival Wahbi Khazri are available after receiving international clearance and they, along with striker Dame N'Doye, will hope for debuts.
If Kone does get the nod against a City side which has lost only once in 10 outings in all competitions, he could face the task of trying to shackle in-form striker Sergio Aguero, who has scored seven times in his last seven games.
Asked if Aguero is as good a striker as the Premier League has seen, Allardyce replied: "Yes, I don't think there's any doubt about that.
"He's been here a long time now and he has proved it year in and year out once he's been 100 per cent fit. Every time he's got over his injuries and them come back, people say, 'He doesn't look as sharp as he did last season', but then when he gets his full match fitness back again, he delivers outstanding goals.
"We have got to pay particular attention to him and try to nullify those strengths as much as we can on Tuesday because he can turn the game in a split-second."