It's December and the games are about to come thick and fast. Sunderland have six fixtures in the month as the festive period gets underway. Leicester are the visitors tomorrow and we have 'winnable' matches against Swansea (a), Watford (h) and Burnley (a) coming up, interspersed by tricky ties against Chelsea (h) and Manchester United (a).
A return of at least seven points from those six matches looks the bare minimum to enable David Moyes to go into January still twisting Ellis Short's arm about funding a survival mission. A win tomorrow will up the ante into convincing the club that some investment at least is worth a shot.
On that note, did you all pick up Moyes' non-committal response when asked about how much he might have to spend in the winter window at this afternoon's press conference?
His response, "I have no idea".
It's not the first time a Sunderland manager has appeared to claim he has no clue whether he's going to be allowed to invest in an up-coming transfer window. Indeed, most of the recent incumbents have initially spoken of their belief they will be backed only to then subtly and slowly readjust their public expectations. But, it feels worse this time with cagey warnings about a lack of funds.
There's more discussion to be had on that score. But first, let's get something out of tomorrow's visit of Leicester City.
Claudio Ranieri's men will be looking to end a dismal opening third of the season that has many suggesting last season's champions have returned to their 'correct' level in the domestic league.
The Foxes are out-performing expectations in the Champions League though, and have given a decent account of themselves, topping their group and gaining qualification to the last 16. Tomorrow's fixture may have come at a bad time as Leicester take a breath before commencing their quest with next Wednesday's European tie against Porto meaningless as far as Ranieri will be concerned.
Some Interesting Stats
Leicester have scored in 90% of their last 20 away games.
Leicester have only managed six clean sheets in their last 20 away games.
Sunderland have only scored in 60% of their last 20 home games.
Sunderland have only managed five clean sheets in their last 20 home games.
Seven of Sunderland's last eight Premier League home games have featured over 2.5 goals.
Sunderland are definitely without Lyndon Gooch (ankle), Lee Cattermole (hip), Fabio Borini (groin) and Paddy McNair (cruciate ligament). Jack Rodwell is also still out with the hamstring injury which has ruled him out for the last month.
David Moyes indicated that Gooch has joined the long-term absentee list and was due to see a specialist this afternoon with initial estimates putting his lay-off at three months. The 20-year-old was stretchered off in an Under-23 fixture on Monday night.
Jan Kirchhoff is finally fit to link up with the squad. The German midfielder has been missing since 1st October when he strained his hamstring against West Bromwich Albion. Kirchhoff has already spoken of his belief he 'rushed' back from his last spell out crocked and David Moyes strongly suggested the bench will be the only place we will be seeing the 26-year-old at 3pm tomorrow.
Moyes' big decision is who to pair with Lamine Kone at central defence. Papy Djilobodji is available again following a one-game suspension so the Sunderland boss will have to decide whether to stick with John O'Shea or bring the Senegalese defender back into the starting eleven.
Surely the choice will purely be a tactical one. Leicester's front-line may be misfiring but an attack comprising Vardy, supported by Mahrez, can do some damage whoever the opponent and did so at the Stadium of Light last season.
Sunderland went deep away at Liverpool last week and John O'Shea is the master at dropping off his opponent and batting incoming balls away at will. Whether Vardy's pace frightens Moyes into selecting Djilobodji in place of O'Shea's ageing legs remains to be seen.
Jason Denayer has earned sufficient plaudits to get the nod in central midfield alongside Papy Djilobodji. It would be no surprise to see the on-loan Manchester city man patrolling after Riyad Mahrez for the ninety minutes.
Beyond that, it's difficult to build a case for the inclusion of Steven Pienaar. The 35-year-old struggled at Anfield. But Moyes' options to switch him are limited to Wahbi Khazri who, at present, seems to be completely unfancied or Sebastian Larsson who has yet to feature this season through injury. Surely the Swede presents as a more favourable option for this fixture than Pienaar however?
Leicester will be without Kaspar Schmeichel and Danny Drinkwater. Ranieri's options in the middle are suitably limited, and he may have to make decisions as to the inclusion of Nampalys Mendy and Ben Chilwell. Aside from Mahrez, the Foxes midfield looks devoid of quality in truth.
Leonardo Ulloa will be on the bench checking out his potential new 'home' for January. The Argentian was strongly linked with a move to Sunderland in the summer and has been again in the upcoming window.
Pickford, van Aanholt, O'Shea, Kone, Jones, Larsson, Ndong, Denayer, Anichebe, Defoe Watmore
Mr Henchard's gloriously accurate prediction:
Sunderland 2 v Leicester 2.
And we'll all live to breathe another day.