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Looking Ahead To Leicester

James Gutteridge looks ahead to this weekend's game against Leicester City - we need to break our habit of drawing games if we are to stay up, but how do we do it?

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

After four consecutive draws in the top flight, Sunderland are now crying out for a win.

Unfortunately for those of the red and white persuasion, the team we are up against this weekend happen to be the form team in England and look certain to clinch what would be an incredible league title win. However, this does not mean we should despair, Leicester have shown they are not unbeatable and, even if we lose this game, all hope is not lost.

Leicester are yet another example of what Sunderland should have become years ago - a successful Premier League team making the best of what they have and competing with the big names week-in-week-out. That said, they are deeply reliant on three star players – Vardy, Mahrez and Kante – and if Sunderland can neutralise them, an admittedly difficult task, then perhaps we have a chance to take something from this game.

Obviously, three points would be absolutely perfect for the Black Cats and would put us back within a single point of safety but it would take a significant chunk of that special kind of optimism that characterises Sunderland fans to think that a win is anything other than unlikely.

Even if Sunderland are defeated, as many will be expecting, there are still three games that are likely to decide the outcome of our season. Away games at relegation rivals Norwich, mid-table Stoke and surprise package Watford are likely to decide whether we can expect games against the likes of Manchester City or MK Dons next year, rather than our games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton.

The deciding factor in these games is likely to be whether our misfiring attack can finally find the kind of form that inspired the miraculous Great Escapes of past seasons. There were signs that we might finally be seeing some more enterprising attacking play from Sam Allardyce’s side against West Brom last weekend, with Fabio Borini particularly lively.

This amounts to little more than meaningless statistics if we cannot convert these chances which our lineup singularly failed to do.

The decision to deploy Lee Cattermole as an attacking midfielder was baffling at best and we can only hope that tactical ‘experiments’ like this are few and far between as Big Sam searches for that elusive mix that can guide us to safety.

In the end, it is likely to come down to whether Sunderland can break the habit of drawing games we should be winning. The West Brom game was typical of Sunderland’s season so far, missed chances galore and a sense of two points dropped rather than one point gained. At this stage, it feels just shy of an impossibility but if Sunderland are going to survive this season, they will need to rediscover the winning mentality that has been so sorely lacking for the past few seasons.