DEFOE IN DOUBT FOR LEICESTER TRIP................
Sunderland manager David Moyes said his team needed to go on a winning run to escape relegation but they could be without top scorer Jermain Defoe for Tuesday's Premier League trip to revitalised champions Leicester City.
Sunderland are bottom of the table and seven points from safety, having won just one of their last 12 league games. Saturday's 1-0 defeat by Watford leaves them desperate for a win at Leicester, who are on a four-game winning run in the league.
Leicester, who were flirting with relegation themselves before Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February, are undefeated under new manager Craig Shakespeare and have climbed to 13th in the table, six points above the drop zone.
"In the position we're in, it's going to take a really good go. We need to start winning games back to back," Moyes told a news conference on Monday.
"Leicester are in good form but they have some big games coming up. Hopefully we can catch them on an off night. While there's still a mathematical chance, we need to keep going. This was always going to be a pivotal week."
The task ahead of Moyes has been complicated by the possibility of Defoe missing the match. The England international has scored 14 goals for Sunderland this season.
The club's next highest scorer, Victor Anichebe, has scored three goals. "Jermain Defoe didn't train yesterday. I can't give you any more of an update than that," Moyes said.
He also apologised for comments he made to BBC reporter Vicki Sparks after Sunderland's game against Burnley on March 18. Moyes was caught on camera telling Sparks after an interview, "You still might get a slap even though you're a woman. Careful the next time you come in."
British media reported that the manager's comments were made after Sparks asked him whether having Sunderland owner Ellis Short in the stands during the Burnley game had increased the pressure on him.
"It was in the heat of the moment, I deeply regret the comments I made," Moyes said on Monday.
"It's certainly not the person I am and I accept it was a mistake. I've spoken to the BBC reporter who accepted my apology and hopefully we can now move on.
"If you look at my character and personality it couldn't be further from the truth. It can happen to managers young and old. It can be difficult being put in front of the cameras so soon after the games."
CROUCH ALSO DOUBT FOR TRIP TO BURNLEY...................
Injured Stoke City striker Peter Crouch is doubtful for Tuesday's Premier League trip to Burnley, with midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and defender Geoff Cameron also unlikely to be ready in time for the match, manager Mark Hughes said.
Crouch hurt his knee during Stoke's 2-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester City on Saturday, while both Shaqiri and Cameron are short of match fitness.
"From the weekend we have a few bumps and bruises," Hughes told a news conference on Monday.
"Peter Crouch has a bang on his knee. Xherdan Shaqiri will train today but may not be fit for tomorrow. We are waiting on Geoff Cameron but he may well miss out."
Hughes said ninth-placed Stoke would focus on recovering in time for the trip to Burnley after a disappointing performance against Leicester, with the manager saying his side's target was to finish in the top half of the table.
"It's more about recovery with a short turnaround between games. It's less about being on the grass, instead making sure we are fresh," Hughes said.
"The displays against Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Chelsea were very good, however Leicester City not so. We have eight games to go and it's clear what we need to do to at least finish in the top 10."
Burnley have not won a league game since the end of January, and are 15th in the table, five points above the relegation zone, but Hughes said they were in no danger of being relegated this season because of their impressive home form.
Burnley's 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday was the club's fourth loss at home in 15 league games this season.
"I don't see (Burnley) being in trouble come the end of the season," Hughes said. "Burnley don't change the way they play and play to their strengths. You have to be nice and solid because they have players who can hurt you."