O'Neill predicts 'tough fight' for Sunderland after dropping into relegation zone

The Black Cats manager feels his side must start taking advantage of their opportunities in games and stop making crucial mistakes after they slipped into the bottom three

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill believes his side have a fight on their hands after slipping into the relegation zone for the first time this season.

A 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at the Stadium of Light has left the Black Cats two points from safety after their form stretched to one win in their last 10 Premier League games.

O'Neill feels Sunderland have enough to escape their current predicament but has rued continued crucial mistakes at key moments, with Sebastian Larsson giving away a penalty just before half-time.

He told reporters: "It's a tough fight, a real tough fight. When we got some fantastic results last season and it seemed by mid-February we had calmly taken ourselves out of relegation problems. I never saw it like that I thought every game is a fight for us. When we have a foothold in games we need to make to count."

"It's heavy punishment I've only seen the penalty briefly back but I said to Seb [Larsson] that if you go to ground you run the risk. The best they were going to get out of that situation was a corner then we're going in 2-0 down. But we'll fight our way out of it. More importantly I believe we have enough self-belief.

"It goes without saying the goals either side of half-time were major set-backs to us. We played very strongly, the players put a very big effort in which was appreciated by the crowd.

"Even though we were defeated it feels as though we got something out of the game."

Sunderland now go into a relegation six-pointer against 19th-placed Reading on Tuesday at the Stadium of Light and O'Neill has underlined the importance of a win.

He added: "Tuesday is a big game, it was always going to be that. If we actually win the game we lift ourselves into 15th position but I don't think that's the issue but it's the points on the board which is more important. We just need to win the game."