Allardyce steels Sunderland for pivotal Everton test

Sunderland (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has warned his side that they are not yet safe as they close in on a fourth consecutive late-season escape from Premier League relegation.

The northeast club will secure a 10th successive season of top-flight football with victory at home to Roberto Martinez’s drifting Everton on Wednesday.

Fourth-bottom Sunderland have pulled off similar last-gasp escapes in the past three seasons and set up a chance to do it again with a stirring 3-2 comeback victory over Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Their 48,000-capacity home will again post the ‘Sold out’ signs as they look to secure back-to-back wins for the first time since November, which would see them safe and condemn neighbours Newcastle United and Norwich City to the Championship alongside bottom club Aston Villa.

A draw will leave their relegation rivals with slim hopes of staying up and Allardyce is keen to finish the job to avoid going into the final day with matters still unresolved.

Sunderland visit Watford on Sunday, with Newcastle hosting Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich travelling to Everton.

“Our destiny is in our own hands,” Allardyce said.

“But we can’t go into the Everton game with the expectation that it’s job done, because it isn’t. We need a repeat of the performance and support we had against Chelsea, particularly in the second half.”

Everton humiliated Sunderland 6-2 earlier in the season and have lost only once in 11 visits to Wearside.

Despite that, they travel to the northeast woefully out of form, but Allardyce does not expect them to roll over, even though his side start as favourites.

“There will be an instinctive response from Everton,” he said. “So it’s by no means a forgone conclusion.”

– Martinez in spotlight –

Allardyce confirmed that defender Lamine Kone is available after being forced off against Chelsea with a thigh problem.

Sunderland have taken eight points from their last four matches and Allardyce added: “We want to give another good account of ourselves, but of course this match for us is all about the result.”

Everton arrive at the Stadium of Light desperate to end a season that has gone from bad to worse, ramping up speculation about the future of embattled manager Martinez.

The Spaniard, who has been in charge since 2013, has overseen a run of just one win in nine Premier League games, which is likely to condemn his side to a bottom-half finish.

The former Swansea City and Wigan Athletic manager has pointed to Everton’s cup exploits — reaching the semi-finals of both domestic knockout competitions — and some reasonable away form as evidence that he is still making progress with a talented squad.

But the Merseyside club have won on the road only twice in the league since the turn of the year and disgruntled supporters are calling in increasing numbers for a change of management.

Martinez admitted that Saturday’s abject 3-1 defeat at champions Leicester City was not good enough and that it will take a major change in attitude and application to prevent Sunderland from securing victory.

Wing-back Bryan Oviedo concurred, saying: “We need to focus on Sunderland now and see what we can do better. It’s important to try and finish strongly in these last two games and focus on next season.”

Everton are again without first-choice defenders Phil Jagielka and Seamus Coleman through injury, while winger Gerard Deulofeu is also out with a hamstring problem.

Centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori is available after suspension.

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