Poyet tells team: Follow Lee's lead
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has urged his players to follow the lead of Lee Cattermole as they launch into a make-or-break Barclays Premier League spell against Everton on Sunday.
Poyet believes his side's destiny will be dictated by the next handful of top-flight fixtures but he must cope without the tenacious Cattermole, who is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season at Crystal Palace on Monday.
So impressive has Cattermole's re-emergence been under Poyet that the Uruguayan is now using the midfielder as an example for his team-mates to follow if they are to put space between themselves and the relegation zone.
Poyet said: "It is a good opportunity for me to see the team without Lee Cattermole, because that's another thing we need to change.
"He has something the other players don't have - the intensity, the work, the desire and even sometimes pushing other players and making us play to the higher tempo we need.
"We need to see if we can find that single player, or a different way to play without him."
Poyet will give either Jack Rodwell or Liam Bridcutt the chance to impress in Cattermole's absence as he looks to follow up the gutsy win at Selhurst Park with a second success which could conceivably lift the Black Cats into the top 10.
Poyet admits to being a big admirer of Everton boss Roberto Martinez but hopes his side can capitalise on the Toffees' midweek exertions in the UEFA Europa League.
Poyet added: "We need to take advantage of that situation where a team is playing in Europe and is playing more games than the rest of us.
"Obviously they have a big squad and will make some changes but there is someone who is going to suffer and we need to find that player."
Everton midfielder Gareth Barry and full-back Seamus Coleman will undergo fitness tests ahead of Sunday's clash at the Stadium of Light.
Barry has an ankle problem which he suffered in Thursday's 3-0 Europa League win over Lille, while Coleman was absent from the squad for that match after suffering a cut to his Achilles tendon in last Saturday's 0-0 league draw with Swansea.
Kevin Mirallas (hamstring), Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone (both match fitness), Antolin Alcaraz (shoulder) and John Stones (ankle) remain unavailable for first-team selection.
Martinez has emphasised there is every chance veteran midfielder Leon Osman will remain with the club even beyond the end of his new deal.
The Toffees announced on Thursday that Osman had agreed a one-year extension to his current contract, taking him through to the summer of 2016.
The 33-year-old Everton academy product subsequently celebrated the news later that day by rifling home his side's opening goal in the 3-0 Europa League victory over Lille at Goodison Park.
Martinez has described Osman as a "special figure" for the Merseysiders and expressed his hope the two-cap England international can continue to prove he is worth retaining for "many years to come".
Speaking ahead of Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to Sunderland, Martinez said of Osman: "You don't get many footballers like Leon.
"You don't get so many players celebrating testimonials in the modern game.
"And then you look at the way he is enjoying his football, the way he is efficient and effective in games, and the way he took his goal on Thursday - I think that is him, if you want to have a snapshot of what he brings in a game.
"He has great composure, arrives into the box and shows real style and quality to score the goal.
"The extra year is a reward he deserves, and now he is not waiting until the end of the season.
"But signing the reward of a year's deal doesn't mean you are going to retire at the end of that contract.
"The club is moving forward and we have a policy that any player over 30 has to prove their fitness so that we are up to speed year by year.
"And I hope Leon Osman is fully fit for many, many years to come and can write many other pages of history with Everton.
"He is very close to 400 appearances, and is a special figure for us."