Sam Allardyce was impressed by Atletico Madrid against Bayern Munich but reckons Diego Simeone’s side would be branded “boring” in the Premier League.
Allardyce marvelled on Wednesday evening as Atletico, having done much the same to Barcelona in the last eight, turned in a superb defensive display in the home leg of their Champions League semi-final clash with Bayern Munich to send themselves into next week’s decider in Germany with a 1-0 lead.
Allardyce’s Sunderland side have collected three clean sheets in their last four games after going 17 in all competitions without one to the manager’s intense frustration.
He is confident as he prepares for Saturday’s trip to Stoke City that an extension of that record over the four remaining fixtures will secure the Black Cats’ top-flight status.
He said: “Seeing Atletico Madrid last night, how they played and how they then defended what they had against a side that is one of the favourites to win the Champions League and is well ahead in the German league…
“It’s an art, defending – everybody has forgotten that – it’s a tactical art to be able to sense danger and block people’s crosses and get your toe in without fouling them now, and they are very, very good at it indeed.
“The whole team buys into it. You see Fernando Torres on the edge of his own box defending – you never saw that at Liverpool or Chelsea.
“That’s how good the manager is and that’s why they are successful. They are successful because they concede fewer goals than everybody else and only need one to win in.
“Now, everybody can say, ‘Well, that’s not entertaining’, but everybody is eulogising Simeone’s tactics now. I wouldn’t think they would do that in the Premier League so much. ‘He’s boring this guy, he defends too much’ – that’s what he’d get here.
“But at the moment, if we keep those clean sheet ratios going in the next four games, I am convinced we will stay up.”
Allardyce dragged Sunderland out of the drop zone last weekend with a 0-0 home draw against Arsenal, and they have now lost only once in seven outings as they edge towards his safety target of 38 points, which remains seven away.
However, the improvement the manager has seen since the turn of the year has convinced him there is hope for the future.
The 61-year-old said: “I see there’s a core basis that we can perhaps build on since the turn of the year. I think that core basis – if and when we get safe in the Premier League – can be added to to try to stop the constant pitch against being relegated.
“But the first and foremost thing is to make sure this group of players, this squad of players can make sure we are Premier League outfit next year.
“We can’t afford to slip up and if we don’t slip up, then we stay up; if we do slip up, we could easily be relegated.”