Why Sunderland's next five fixtures present a chance to secure survival

Sunderland take on Aston Villa, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Stoke City in their next five games.

Sunderland's next five fixtures are likely to define their season, as they have a great chance to move away from trouble over the coming weeks.

Sunderland take on Aston Villa, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Stoke City and every game represents a chance for them to pick up maximum points.

Villa have improved under new manager Tim Sherwood, but their problems throughout the season have been similar to Sunderland's.

Villa have struggled for goals and currently are positioned behind Sunderland in the Premier League table, meaning that this weekend's game looks huge.

They follow their match against Villa up with a fixture against a struggling West Ham side and, once again, Gus Poyet's team should be confident. 

The Hammers have a lot of quality in their team, but they are performing well below expectations at the moment and their season appears to be in danger of petering out.

A win at the Boleyn Ground would put Sunderland in a good position to win the North East derby, with Newcastle unlikely to be relishing the prospect of playing at the Stadium of Light.

The Magpies' season has unravelled since the appointment of John Carver and Sunderland will be looking to expose the deficiencies in their rival's team. 

If the Black Cats are victorious there, then the atmosphere around the club would be lifted and that could benefit them for another big match against Crystal Palace.

Palace have moved away from danger recently, but Sunderland will still consider them beatable and avoiding defeat should be the minimum expectation. 

Sunderland's toughest tie in their next five fixtures is arguably their match against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, but the Potters have little to play for.

Stoke have already had an impressive campaign and Sunderland's greater need for the three points could prove crucial.

It means that Sunderland should be aiming to get a sizable number of points in their next five fixtures because if they don't their chances of survival do look bleak. 

Sunderland's next five fixtures:

March 14, Aston Villa (h)
March 21, West Ham (a)
April 5, Newcastle (h)
April 11, Crystal Palace (h)
April 25, Stoke (a)

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