Sunderland Echo journalist Richard Mennear gives us the lowdown on the Black Cats ahead of Southampton's visit to the Stadium of Light...
What have results been like recently?
The doom and gloom on Wearside has been lifted ahead of the Southampton game thanks to a hard-fought point against Tottenham Hotspur and the brilliant victory at Selhurst Park. Four points in a week and two clean sheets on the trot have really raised spirits and breathed new life into the club's survival push. Sunderland were clinical against Palace, hitting them on the counter and they looked like scoring every time they broke forward. January was a disappointing month, but, thanks to two good results, the gap to safety is now just two points.
How is the mood and confidence right now?
Good. You could see the players grow in confidence on Saturday – after all, it isn't often you go in at the break leading 4-0. That result, and the manner of the performance, has really lifted spirits on Wearside ahead of another huge weekend of Premier League action. Sunderland go into Saturday's game full of confidence both on and off the pitch.
How important is this game for Sunderland?
Massive. Sunderland need to build on the positive week with another result – ideally three points – against Southampton. A victory, with other results going their way, could see Sunderland pull themselves out of the relegation zone. They won't need any more motivation than that. Sunderland won four out of seven league games in November/December and are capable of going on another run.
How would you describe the team’s style of play and approach at the moment?
David Moyes has been playing a back three with wing-backs in recent games, and it is certainly working. It means Sunderland have cover in defence, width when needed down both flanks, and Jermain Defoe has more support, with Adnan Januzaj playing just behind him against Palace. Sunderland hit Palace on the counter-attack on Saturday and it worked a treat.
Who are the players in form, and who do you think will be key for Sunderland on Saturday?
Lamine Koné and Didier Ndong have both been in exceptional form since arriving back from the Africa Cup of Nations refreshed. Jermain Defoe is obviously the main threat, with the club's 14-goal top scorer only one goal behind last season's league haul (15) with three months still to play. Those three are the key figures for Sunderland.