Larsson confident Cats can pass Toffees test

TOFFEES TEST: Seb Larsson

TOFFEES TEST: Seb Larsson

First published in Sunderland AFC News Durham Times: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

SEB LARSSON insists Sunderland can cope with an extended run in the FA Cup whilst trying to maintain their top-ten position in the Premier League.

Sunderland travel to Goodison Park on Saturday looking to book their place in the semi-final of the FA Cup, which will be played at Wembley.

The Black Cats go into the game high in confidence after an impressive win over Everton's Merseyside rivals Liverpool at the Stadium of Light last Saturday.

They were without key men Lee Cattermole, Stephane Sessegnon and Kieran Richardson, but Martin O'Neill's men more matched the Reds, something Larsson believes demonstrates the strength of the squad.

The Swedish international is no stranger to this stage of the competition having reached the quarter-finals in his last two seasons at Birmingham and the 26-year-old feels the Black Cats are well equipped to progress despite missing Cattermole and Sessegnon, who continue to serve three and four-match bans respectively.

"We have the squad to cope with it," Larsson said. "Last year with Birmingham we didn't really have the squad to cope with that so we couldn't really put out the strongest possible team on the day and we were punished.

"But we've got a good squad here with people able to perform. It's a one-off game and if we put in a good performance we're in with a shout.

"We had some people missing last week that have done really well for us this season. That's what football is about, it's what having a squad is about.

"I think we showed at the weekend we've got a lot of people who can come in and do well. They obviously want to stay in the team, and to do that you need to do well.

"I'll have been in the quarter-finals three years running and I'd just like to go one step further and get to Wembley with a win."

If they are to progress, Sunderland must overcome a dreadful record at Goodison Park where they haven't won since Novemeber 1996.

But try telling that to Larsson, who insists the Wearsiders will be confident.

"Of course we're going to be confident. It's a very tough place to go, but being new to the club this season I don't know anything about that (form against Everton) and I don't really care about it too much to be honest.

"We know we're more than capable of getting a good result but at the same time we know you need to perform well or you don't get anything at Goodison Park."

Both Manchester clubs and Larsson's former team Arsenal have exited the competition, but with Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool remaining, the 26-year-old insists there won't be an easy route to the final.

"You only really look at the team you're going to play in the draw you get. You can't really affect anything else.

"I think there's still enough good teams in the competition for it to be very difficult to win it but it's not impossible. To do that we've got to get through to the semi-finals first.

"You've just got to focus on this game now. If you get too carried away you get knocked out and it's all over, so it doesn't really matter if you've got to the quarters then. Obviously if you get to the semis it's a trip to Wembley and there's something there for you. We'll focus on this game alone and try and keep the momentum going."

Sunderland are confident Nicklas Bendtner will be available despite suffering a knee ligament injury last Saturday.

Bendtner was forced off on a stretcher 25 minutes after a challenge by Martin Skrtel, but scans revealed he has suffered no serious damage.

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