Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat has told the Chronicle that his side need to acknowledge the severity of the situation they are in before their match against Bournemouth this weekend.
The Black Cats travel to the south coast to face Eddie Howe's newly promoted side on Saturday, and Advocaat has issued a stern warning to his troops.
He says they simply cannot afford to lose the fixture, as they must not allow themselves to fall five points adrift of Cherries at this early stage of the season.
“Hopefully the players realise that if we lose at Bournemouth, we’ll be five points behind them and that is not a good idea," he said.
"We need a result there, there is no doubt about that. This is the sixth game of the season and if we go to Bournemouth and are well organised, we have the quality to do something.
“But if we go there and think it’s going to be easy, then we have no chance."
For Sunderland to already be worrying about their position in the Premier League table rather highlights how disappointing their start has been.
The North East outfit have failed to pick up a victory in any of their opening five fixtures, and the problems which were evident last season still seem to exist.
Sunderland appear to be low on confidence, and their search for a potent goalscorer does not appear to have ended, despite their summer additions.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, have made a bright opening to their first campaign in the top-tier. The Cherries have won away at West Ham United, and also put in spirited performances against Liverpool and Leicester City.