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Black Cats must overcome pressure - Mignolet
SUNDAY'S visit of Norwich is viewed as among the biggest game of Sunderland's season and Simon Mignolet insists the squad must not use the pressure currently heaped on their shoulders as an excuse for their bad run.
Last weekend's defeat to Queens Park Rangers was a missed opportunity for the Black Cats in their quest to pull away from the Premier League's bottom three.
Defeat at Loftus Road left Martin O'Neill's men six points above the drop zone, with teams below them gathering momentum.
Bottom club QPR go to Aston Villa on Saturday, but whatever the outcome at Villa Park, the Black Cats can't afford to settle for anything less than three points at the Stadium of Light.
A run of six games without a victory has increased the pressure on O'Neill and his players, but Mignolet insists the squad shouldn't let that affect their performances.
"I always think that pressure is a negative factor when it sits on your shoulders," Mignolet said. "It's never going to help you play games the way you want to.
"You have to believe in yourself. You have to be a professional when you step on that pitch. We are paid to be footballers and we can't really think pressure.
"An old coach of mine back in Belgium would say to me that pressure, real pressure, is war, when you are in Iraq or something like that.
"So we can't use pressure as an excuse. As a footballer you are exposed to the crowds and television cameras, and you need to get on with it."
Manchester United (h), Chelsea (a), Newcastle (a) and Everton (h) follow Sunday's game and taking some points from Chris Hughton's side would allow the Wearsiders some welcome breathing space ahead of that quartet.
Mignolet insists the following games won't enter his mind until after Sunday, but the Belgium international believes his side shouldn't be written off in those games.
He said: "You can't think about what's coming next if we don't beat Norwich. The most important thing for us is the here and now, which means beating Norwich.
"It's true we have a lot of the top teams coming up, but in the past we have taken enough points from these teams to not be afraid of them.
"There are three points to win and lose. We can't think negatively and say we won't take anything from these fixtures.
"We have to raise our game and, anyway, why can't we win against these top teams? We might even find it easier than playing the teams that are around us."
Their current run has baffled O'Neill and the supporters alike and an air of gloom now presides over Wearside.
Mignolet admits the squad are scratching their heads over their current predicament.
"If you look at the personalities we have around this football club, you will know that none of us want to be in this position and we did think beforehand that we'd be higher up the table,'' he said.
"Everyone knows that the Premier League is tough. We play against good opposition every week, but the thing is if you don't win your home games then teams that were below are going to close in on you.
"That is something we have to deal with and it's why it's so important to get three points against Norwich."
While many are counting the Canaries' visit a win or bust, the 24-year-old keeper prefers to look at it from another angle.
"I look at it in a different way," he said. "It's not about needing to win the game, it's about wanting to win it - and we really do want to win as a squad.
"If we do our best and give 100 per cent, and everyone wants to win, then everything will turn out fine.
"But in saying that, if we keep saying we need to win, then that puts added pressure on us. It's up to us to step on to the pitch on Sunday and win. I think everyone is focussed on that."
Whether results go their way at the weekend is out of Sunderland's hands, but Mignolet insists the squad is responsible for their own position at the end of the season and they must not bank on other teams to lose.
He said: "I prefer to look at my own team and not what everyone else is doing. I can't worry about the circumstances of someone else.
"We need to make sure our performances are good and we start winning at home. That starts on Sunday and we can't look at any other team.
"If we go out and play to our best and win our home games then it doesn't matter what anyone else does. We have to take care of ourselves and make sure we try to win every game we have left."