Pivotal times for Sunderland
By Adam Marshall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Mick McCarthy accepts the next few games are pivotal for Sunderland.
Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy accepts that forthcoming home games with Aston Villa and Birmingham City are pivotal to the Wearside club's season.
The Black Cats are currently at the foot of The Premiership and McCarthy acknowledges the pressure is on with the Midlands clubs also struggling this term.
"It's absolutely pivotal because of who we're playing against," he asserted on Thursday. "Birmingham and Aston Villa.
"We try not to look beyond the game on Saturday but, with Birmingham and Liverpool to come, we've got three home games.
"It is a pivotal moment in the season for us, having three home games and the opposition they are - especially Birmingham and Villa, who are in and around us near the bottom of the league so it's even more important."
Stephen Wright and Christian Bassila are back from injury for Saturday's clash with Villa, who will include former Black Cats striker Kevin Phillips, but Julio Arca is still sidelined with a toe injury.
"Wright's been playing and training fully and Bassila is back training and playing in reserve games," explained McCarthy.
"Both are fully fit so that's nice to hear.
"Julio's still struggling with his toe. We're very conscious that he came back and played 45 minutes against Newcastle to his detriment, actually.
"He's been out since then and the last thing we want to do is make it any worse so we'll make sure he's absolutely right."
|Bottom on Xmas Day: Sunderland 11/10, Portsmouth 11/4, Birmingham 5/1, West Brom 5/1, Aston Villa 10/1, Everton 16/1 -|
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