Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet knows there will be no margin for error when his struggling side travel to Manchester City on Wednesday.
The wearside suffered their first Premier League defeat in five games when they were beaten 2-0 by Hull City on Saturday and they are hovering just one place above the relegation zone.
Sunderland now face the task of locking horns with a City side licking their wounds after their 100 per cent top-flight home record was ended by Chelsea last week before they were held at Norwich City on Saturday.
The game is a pre-cursor for the League Cup final, with the two sides set to do battle at Wembley on March 2 when the first major trophy of the season will be up for grabs.
Despite City's recent results, Poyet is braced for a stern test against Manuel Pellegrini's charges.
"We need to be realistic," he told the club's official website.
"They have got plenty of quality players and that's why they're in the position they are.
"We must be spot on and do everything right; make sure we're organised to make it difficult for them.
"Saying that, I think it's a game the boys are looking forward to, having the opportunity to play against the team we will face in the cup final. It's a nice game to play."
Sunderland are unbeaten in six on the road in the Premier League and Poyet will instruct his players not to sit too deep and play into City's hands.
"(Away form) has been very important - we've been very good away from home of late, probably one of the best," he said.
"We are going to have to defend at periods in the game because of the quality of the opposition. At the same time we need to be dominant on the ball.
"Without any doubt, it's going to be physical - we will need to be in good shape - but mentally we must be strong enough to go and try, as much as we can, to control the game.
"We can't just let them come forward again and again."