Alex Neil admits he is facing one of the biggest matches of his managerial career as Norwich City prepare to host Sunderland in Saturday’s crunch Premier League relegation clash.
Former Hamilton boss Neil’s Canaries are only four points clear of Sunderland in the drop zone although City have played one more match.
Norwich’s two-game winning run was brought to a halt in a defeat at Crystal Palace at the weekend and Neil admits that loss has added to the enormity of the eagerly-anticipated lunch-time showdown.
Neil said: “Sunderland is the ideal match for us because we have a chance to get ourselves further away from the relegation zone.
“If you already have the points on the board that is the important thing but of course after our defeat, Sunderland carries a bit of extra weight now.
“We could have put a bit of distance between us. What happened on Saturday dictates a lot. We know it is still four and we can extend it to seven.”
Speaking to the Eastern Daily Express, Neil added: “Sunderland was always going to be big, regardless of whether we won or lost (at Palace).
“If we had won it was going to be massive for them. If we had drawn then the situation doesn’t really change, and if we had lost, like we have, then it was always going to be built up even bigger.”
Former Hamilton captain Neil, whose team face a daunting end to the campaign with matches against Arsenal, Manchester United, Watford and Everton, added: “Yes, I think they can hold their nerve, although we know Sunderland is a huge game.
“The way I look at it is we are fighting against ourselves.
“We need to win games. What I do know is if we don’t win enough games between now and the end of the season we are not going to be able to stay in.
“The one thing we have got in our favour is points on the board. They might have games in hand but the points are there for us. I would like to think it is an advantage we have in these games against the sides around us.
“We have had some high pressure matches and the squad is in a really good place right now in terms of the belief and believing in each other. We always believed we were good enough to get ourselves out of this situation.”