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Bolton Wanderers-Sunderland Preview
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Bolton Wanderers face a huge test in their battle to avoid relegation when they play Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Third from bottom Bolton took a big step towards escaping the drop with a 2-1 win at fellow strugglers Aston Villa on Tuesday evening and manager Owen Coyle is confident of a strong finish to the season.
"For a number of weeks we had spoken about the two games we had in hand and it wasn't great having to sit and wait whilst the other clubs played," said Coyle. "We always knew our fate was in our own hands but we had to maximise those opportunities. We did that the other night but we have to continue in that vein.
"There are four matches left to play and we think there are points for us to achieve in every one of those. We have good players and we must continue playing in the same manner that we have.
"We've been on a good run of form, recording four wins and a draw from our last seven games. If we can replicate that form in the last four matches we will achieve our short-term aim.
"This isn't the point of the season when we are four games in and there are 34 games to recover - this is now the business end of the season when there are nerves and anxious moments.
"But the great thing aside from the three points and the win on Tuesday was that we came back from a goal down. That shows the trust and belief the lads have in each other and they know that even though things might go against them from time to time that they can bounce back."
Sunderland are aiming for a top-half finish, but are fully aware of how tricky Saturday's game will be.
"The game against Bolton on Saturday is another difficult one for us," said Black Cats centre-back Matthew Kilgallon. "Owen Coyle will get them playing and they will get the ball forward quickly.
"We have to defend as we have been doing and make sure we keep them out. It would be nice to get a win.
"It's so tight in the middle of the table - only a few points here and there separate a number of teams. A win would help us up that table again.
"Anyone can beat anyone in this league - that's why the Premier League is so good to watch."
Sunderland are without Sebastien Larsson (groin), while Kieran Richardson (groin), Connor Wickham (ankle), Lee Cattermole (knee), Wes Brown (knee) and Titus Bramble are all unlikely to feature. Bolton remain without Fabrice Muamba, Tyrone Mears (knee), Ricardo Gardner (thigh), Chung-Yong Lee (broken leg) and Stuart Holden (knee), while Chris Eagles (knock) and Ryo Miyaichi (shoulder) are doubtful.
Sunderland have won their last five meetings with Bolton, but go into this game without a league win in five matches and without a goal in four. The Trotters have yet to draw a match away from home this season and failed to keep a clean-sheet in 11 straight league games.
Updated April 26, 2012