The state of things
Sunderland travel to Watford tomorrow for a huge game in the relegation battle. Whilst not quite win-or-bust, the fixture is one of ten remaining of which the Black Cats will need to win five or six to stay in the Premier League.
This week we've learnt that David Moyes is under no pressure and will keep his job should the club be relegated. And yesterday the Sunderland boss insisted that sticking by him was the right course of action and that he believed supporters still back that vision.
Watford are in a poor run of form themselves with no win in their last four league games - a sequence which has seen the Hornets slump to the fringes of the relegation battle. Walter Mazzarri's side are not brilliant at home and have only won five of their fourteen fixtures at Vicarage Road this season.
Here's six things we learned from David Moyes' press conference this morning.
1. Cattermole unlikely to be involved
Lee Cattermole provided something of a boost yesterday by declaring himself ready to return to the Sunderland squad ahead of the relegation run-in-proper which commences in earnest tomorrow.
But ever one to pour cold water on every glimmer of hope, Moyes suggested the 29-year-old midfielder is unlikely to be in the mix for Watford,
I'm not sure Catts will be in the squad, He's missed the whole season and now we're in April so we have to make sure he's right
2. Anichebe is closer and may be in the squad
Victor Anichebe probably represents one of Sunderland's final chances of getting some results to stay in the Premier League. After all, it's no coincidence that the powerful forward played in four of the Black Cats' five victories this season.
Big Vic has been in America working with a specialist to speed up his recovery. The 28-year-old has only played twenty-four minutes this year and has missed Sunderland's last six games, most recently absent with a knee injury he picked up at the Hawthorns in January.
Moyes revealed Anichebe has been back in training and admitted "we need him and Catts".
3. Defensive options - Lamine Kone & John O'Shea should be OK
Fresh from his headline-busting encounter with Gareth Bale last Friday John O'Shea should be fit for tomorrow. The veteran Republic of Ireland captain had several stitches in his shin after a crazy lunge by the Real Madrid superstar during the World Cup Qualifier against Wales. Moyes said,
John O'Shea took a fair rattle in his game but we think he's ok.
Lamine Kone has also returned to full fitness. The Ivorian defender missed the Burnley game after twisting his knee and Moyes confirmed he has trained this week too.
So Sunderland have a full suite of centre-halves to pick from for tomorrow's game with Papy Djilobodji likely knocking on the door for a return to the starting eleven and Jason Denayer looking decent at the back against Burnley.
Asked about the continuing speculation about Jermain Defoe leaving Sunderland for free upon relegation, Moyes pretty much confirmed this to be the case, telling Sky Sports and other assembled media folks,
We're not down and we're not planning to go down. We're planning to stay up - that's what we're doing and if that [relegation] happens and we don't stay up, we'll answer the questions later.
Moyes did confirm that Defoe has been back in training with Sunderland this week and will be fit for the trip to Watford.
5. Moyes on his job-security
Asked about his apparent untouchable status at Sunderland, Moyes indicated - as we expected - that his job is under no threat from owner Ellis Short,
I speak to Ellis quite regularly and we've always said things are fine. We've always said what the plan is - there's a building job going on and hopefully we can try and all get it done together.
Whilst Moyes staying put hasn't gone down well in plenty of quarters amongst the Sunderland support, it probably is best that with a crucial final sequence of games about to start, the manager's post is publicly secure as we go into them.
6. A season-defining week
With three games in eight days, and Sunderland needing to pick up likely a minimum of four points to stay in touch with the pack above, Moyes acknowledged that the upcoming first week in April will be a season-defining one,
This is it now isn't it really. We're into the month of April which will hopefully be vitally important to us. If we can win a few of these games in April we've got games in May where we can give ourselves a real chance. It's been done before here.
As for the games to come - against Watford tomorrow, Leicester on Tuesday and Manchester United next weekend - Moyes accepted the battle may be all but over after that trio if results do not go Sunderland's way, or if they do, the latest miracle might just be on again,
We have to take some points out of those games this week. It might not be everything, but it will help define where we're going to be.