Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has challenged his players to stake a claim for next weekend's League Cup final with Manchester City.
The Uruguayan is preparing his relegation-threatened side for a Premier League clash at high-flyers Arsenal on Saturday.
The Arsenal fixture marks the last opportunity for Sunderland players to show they should be involved at the Wembley showpiece against Manchester City a week on Sunday, when England's first major domestic trophy of the season will be decided.
Poyet admits he has most of his starting line-up in mind, but hints that some places are still up for grabs.
"No doubt (they are competing), no doubt," he said.
"Managers will always have seven or eight we will pick if they are fit, which leaves three or four which are always available for people depending on what they do or how they feel.
"I hope nothing happens next week so I can make the decisions based on performance and what we need.
"It could be an illness, it could be a virus, it could be anything, and then somebody who is not expecting to be there then is there, and you want that person to be very good because you know the team is going to be affected.
"If (the final) was this week I would have no complaints because everybody has been spot-on, so we will see."
Poyet has been impressed with his players' attitude in training this week, and believes a visit to the Emirates Stadium is ideal preparation for the League Cup final.
"I don't want to exaggerate because then we go and we lose 5-0 and you will be laughing at me next week," he added. "But this is one of the best weeks we have had in training, one of the best.
"Call it whatever - excitement or freshness or people confident because of what they have done on the pitch or what is coming, Arsenal and Manchester City and they want to be there - you can put it down to whatever.
"But I can tell you that in terms of quality and the quantity, it's been the best week.
"I don't know if you can plan better for a final than playing away at the Emirates a week before playing Manchester City at Wembley.
"It's a perfect 'friendly'. It's not a friendly, it's three points, but it's perfection for us, so it's going to give us a big opportunity to see if we can really go and play in a certain way against Manchester City as well."
|Coach: M. Pellegrini|
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