Seb Larsson says this weekend's game against Southampton will be one of Sunderland's biggest matches of the season so far.
The midfielder admits it is more important for the Black Cats to prosper against other teams in the bottom half of the table, than it is to stun one of the handful of clubs chasing the Premier League title.
Sunderland were beaten 3-1 by Manchester United at the weekend, which followed on from their much needed victory over fellow strugglers Reading last Tuesday.
The north-east club travel to the south coast on Saturday holding a slender one point advantage over Saints, who have one game in hand, and the 27-year-old Larsson told the Hartlepool Mail: "Next weekend is as big as Reading.
"Although we would have loved to have got something from the game at Old Trafford, it wasn't really seen as a six-pointer.
"But next week will be different. The games against the teams around us are going to be the big ones now.
"We've got to remember what we did against Reading and take the positives from the second half against Manchester United on Saturday.
"If we play to some of the levels we've shown lately, we'll be alright.
"You just need a couple of results in these games and you fly up the table."
As for the United game, he added: "You can't play catch up against teams like Chelsea and Man United.
"United were definitely the better team, we under-performed in the first half and conceded two very sloppy goals."
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