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May 7, 2013

Di Canio: Saints clash our UCL final

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has described Sunday's game against Southampton as "our Champions League final" following a 1-1 draw with Stoke on Monday.

• Heneage: Sunderland show survival spirit

The Black Cats earned a spirited draw after going a goal and a man down when Craig Gardner was sent off for a first-half lunge on Charlie Adam. Resurgent after the break, they capped off an impressive second half display with a goal from defender John O'Shea.

Still looking for the win that will potentially see them safe, Sunderland will be afforded another opportunity to pick up three points when Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton side visit the Stadium of Light on Sunday. Far from assured of safety themselves, Di Canio has already afforded the game a big billing.

"It's our Champions League final, it's crucial for our destiny," he said. "It's hard to say, and it depends on what happens with Wigan tomorrow, but I think that, if we win against Southampton, with our goal difference, we should be okay.

"There's pressure yes, but this is a massive point. I'm very happy. We showed amazing second-half concentration. Our shape was fantastic. There was only one team in the second half, in my opinion. It wasn't easy, Stoke have giant players, a real physical presence and we must be a masochist team.

"Now, with two games left, we have to be careful, we can't afford any more mistakes like Craig's [red card] or Stéphane [Sessègnon's red card against Aston Villa]. Craig was very down and said sorry but it was a mistake, it can happen."

With John O'Shea citing his manager as the catalyst behind their second half comeback, Di Canio returned the praise to his player's commending their discipline in the face of adversity.

"I saw many faces very down," he said. "But I told them we could stay in the game and create chances. I told them to keep a 4-4-1 shape and it was a fantastic effort. I'm very pleased."

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