Jan Kirchhoff believes Sunderland need to start keeping more clean sheets if they hope to stay up

The Black Cats are currently just outside the Premier League relegation zone, but only have a small advantage over those in the bottom three.

Jan Kirchhoff believes that it is essential that Sunderland start keeping clean sheets if they hope to avoid being relegated from the Premier League this season, the Shields Gazette reports.

Sam Allardyce's men are currently one place above the bottom three, but could fall into the drop zone if Newcastle beat Leicester City on Monday. 

And while they have only lost one of their last five league games, Kirchhoff has suggested that the Black Cats need to start tightening up defensively if they hope to drag themselves away from danger.

"We need to get clean sheets," he told the Shields Gazette.

"Everyone can see that we create chances.

"I've seen that in every game since I've been here, but we don't manage to stay strong enough in defence and get a clean sheet."

The former Bayern Munich man's assessment of Sunderland's problems appears to be correct. No side in the bottom seven has scored more times than they have this term, but only bottom team Aston Villa have conceded more.

They have managed to keep just three clean sheets in all competitions this season, with their last coming in the 2-0 victory over Stoke in November. 

And with five of their remaining nine fixtures coming against sides in the bottom half of the table - including the two teams that they are in direct competition with to stay up, Newcastle and Norwich - it will surely be essential that they become much more difficult to break down in the coming weeks if they hope to secure survival.

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