MARCO SILVA has moved to eradicate any complacency on the part of Hull City by stressing points and not goal difference has to be the sole focus ahead of today’s home game with relegated Sunderland.
The Tigers have an opportunity to pile the pressure on third-bottom Swansea City by beating the Black Cats, a result that would leave the Welsh club trailing their relegation rivals by five points going into the tea-time meeting with Everton at the Liberty Stadium.
Should City draw or lose, however, Paul Clement’s men will move out of the drop zone with a victory to underline how fine the margins are near the foot of the Premier League.
With that in mind along with the fact that Swansea travel to Sunderland next weekend, a boost to Hull’s goals difference – currently inferior by two to that of their main relegation rival –along with victory over David Moyes’s rock-bottom side would be timely.
Silva, however, is adamant that his players cannot afford to focus on anything but getting all three points.
“It is important to win,” said the Portuguese. “The most important thing is to take three points. After, we will see what the score is but, in our mind, we are only focused on winning the game.
“Goal-difference is important. The last two home games, we have scored two goals and not conceded any. That is important. We try to get a clean sheet and score as many goals as possible but the most important thing is to win the game.
“When we prepare for this game against Sunderland, we prepare to win. If we win 1-0, it is good to us. We would like to win by more but we have to respect this team. I don’t want anyone to think it is easy and I don’t want anyone to think about goals.
“If you think that way, it is a big mistake. We have to respect Sunderland and their players a lot. I don’t permit my players to think in this way.”
Elsewhere in The Yorkshire Post, striker Oumar Niasse voices the belief that today’s meeting with Sunderland offers an opportunity to boost City’s goal difference.
I want our players to be confident but in other games against other opponents we show this confidence but respect the other team. It is not the moment to be thinking about goals.Marco Silva
Made aware of those quotes from Thursday’s media briefing, Silva promised to have a word with the Everton loanee.
“If Niasse says this, maybe I will go down and talk with him,” added the Tigers head coach. “No-one in the club would have heard me say that. We prepare in the same way – to try and win the game, and do our best.
“It is important that he has said this two days before the game because I have another training session with him. Maybe it is the first thing I will talk to him about.
“I want our players to be confident but in other games against other opponents we show this confidence but respect the other team. It is not the moment to be thinking about goals. Our goal is to win the game and, afterwards, we will see the score.”
The last four weekends have seen both Hull and Swansea match each other’s result. A repeat today would then put the focus on the double-header that sees the Welsh club travel to the Stadium of Light a week today and the Tigers head to Crystal Palace the following lunchtime. After that, Silva’s side round off their season at home to Tottenham Hotspur as the Swans host West Bromwich Albion.
On paper, the final two fixtures seem kinder to Clement than Silva – hence why opening a five-point gap this afternoon by beating Sunderland could be so crucial.
“I don’t think so,” replied Silva when asked if there was an advantage to kicking off earlier than Swansea. “This week we play before, but next week Swansea will play on Saturday while we play on Sunday. We will be ready for all the situations.
“It is really important that we have a game at home, in our stadium. We respect Sunderland but we need to prove ourselves again. The gap now is only two points.
“What I also know, from paying attention in the past, is that Swansea’s players have experience to fight against relegation. In the last few years, they have kept the club in the Premier League.
“I am not sure if they have had to fight until the end but it is normal for them to in a position to fight. They have the players who have kept the team in the Premier League so I don’t think they feel too much pressure.
“But that is not the most important thing to me. We have to keep focused on what is possible for us to do. What we control is our team and we will also try to control our opponents Sunderland to win the game.”
Niasse interview: Page 2.