Poyet says home comfort key to Sunderland survival
Gus Poyet insists home form is the key to bottom of the table Sunderland's bid to remain in the Premier League.
Three of the north-east side's last four games are at home against teams around them in the battle to beat the drop, starting with Sunday's visit by third-bottom Cardiff City.
Sunderland have pulled to within three points of safety after unexpectedly taking four points from tough back-to-back trips to title-chasing Manchester City and Chelsea.
But Poyet knows they must back those results up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side before, following the trip to Manchester United, they welcome West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City to the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland have won just once at home in the league since beating Manchester City in November and Poyet said it was a statistic they must improve to have any hope of prolonging their seven-season stay in the top flight.
"We've been written off so many times, and we're so lucky to have another chance," Sunderland manager Poyet said.
"We'll give it our best shot and see what happens but our home form is now crucial to us," the former Uruguay midfielder added.
"We've got a great chance, let's take it. There are no excuses. We've got ourselves in great positions in the past this season and haven't backed it up with a win at home. Now this is a chance we need to take."
Poyet has set his side a target of two wins and a draw from their last four games to reach his 36-point safety mark.
"I've always said we need 36 points or over to be safe and my mind's not changed on that," he explained. "If we win our three remaining home games that will take us over that."
- Halfway to a miracle -
"The message is, continue like we've done in the last two games. Believe in yourself and we've got a chance.
"With all respect to Cardiff, we're not even thinking about the draw in this game.
"I said the other week that we needed a miracle to stay up. I think we've managed to complete half the miracle now. We looked dead and buried but now we've got a chance."
Scotland international Phil Bardsley is available after serving a two-match suspension, but Poyet has a selection dilemma after Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini impressed as a stand-in right-back.
Against all the odds, resurgent Cardiff have collected four points in their two most recent fixtures fixtures, against Southampton and Stoke.
Now Solskjaer is convinced his side have the belief to collect another positive result at the Stadium of Light and remain in the division.
"The last few weeks have boosted the players and we have some fresh legs and fresh minds and we are going into this game in some good form," he said.
"That's a big thing. We are away from home, but we won at Southampton.
"Of course you like the advantage of your home fans but we go there with genuine belief that we can get something. I am certainly not looking beyond this.
"We have to look at ourselves and it's about us sticking together as we did at Southampton," the former Manchester United striker added.
"The players believe they can stay up. We have three games to go and we are within two (points) of Norwich.
"It's a situation that at the start of the season we would have taken -- I mean still being in with a shout with three games to go. I think a win for both teams is what we (each) need."
Cardiff talisman Craig Bellamy is expected to be available for selection after the forward recovered from a virus.