GUS POYET admits it has been an agonising wait to resume Sunderland’s survival campaign after watching their relegation rivals put points on the board over the last month.
Sunderland will play only their second Premier League game in five weeks on Saturday, when they face a crunch clash against fifth bottom Crystal Palace – an encounter Poyet has already described as the “biggest” of the season.
The Black Cats’ cup commitments have given their opponents in the relegation battle a chance to gain ground, with Poyet’s side dropping to second bottom, albeit they remain just a point adrift of the safety mark.
Poyet says he has inevitably been keeping an eye on the basement scrap over the last fortnight, while Sunderland were participating in the Capital One Cup final and FA Cup quarter final.
But with Sunderland’s cup exploits now at an end, Poyet is desperate to resume the fight for survival, with the Wearsiders facing a dozen remaining games to get the points needed to stay in the top flight.
Poyet told the Echo: “You look at the other games naturally when you’re not playing.
“But I don’t like it because you can’t do anything about it. I didn’t organise the fixtures, that’s for sure!
“I just want to play the games myself. That’s the thing.
“I know Palace is a massive game. It’s bigger than any game we’ve played so far, more than the cup final.
“Sometimes I don’t like to make out that a game is like a cup final, but I think it’s the only way we can approach our remaining games.
“The cup is gone now. It’s just about making sure we prepare well this week and are ready for Palace.
“We’ve got the whole week to prepare and then win.”
Sunderland’s potential advantage in the relegation scrap is their games in hand, with all of their drop rivals playing at least twice more than the Wearsiders.
But Poyet is wary about those teams above Sunderland boasting points on the board.
And the head coach knows that Sunderland will only have a more accurate picture of their plight once they have caught up with the rest.
“With the more games you get in hand, it can get worse,” he added.
“There are teams that have been winning and gone away from us who were very close a week or two ago.
“You can’t get there (because of not playing league games) and don’t know for real where you are.”