Larsson confident cup run will boost Sunderland's Premier League prospects (From The Advertiser Series)
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Larsson confident cup run will boost Sunderland's Premier League prospects
SEB LARSSON has rubbished fears that Sunderland’s brilliant run to the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup will have a negative effect on the club’s fight for Premier League survival.
The dramatic and memorable scenes at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night, when the Black Cats reached the last four by knocking out Chelsea, will be put to one side on Saturday.
Sunderland - paired with a two-legged January semi-final with Manchester United starting at home - now have to focus on a crucial league fixture with Norwich City, knowing three pre-Christmas points would be well received in attempts to close a five-point gap to safety.
Ki Sung-Yueng’s 118th minute winner against Chelsea now means Sunderland could face 11 matches inside 38 days if they also overcome Carlisle United early in the new year to seal a fourth round spot in the FA Cup.
Such fixture demands would put a serious strain on Gus Poyet’s squad, even though he is hoping to bring in some new faces during the January transfer window.
Larsson was part of the Birmingham City team in 2011 which won the League Cup by defeating Arsenal at Wembley before suffering relegation to the Championship a few months later. In previous years the likes of Wigan and even Middlesbrough have gone down after reaching cup finals.
But the Swedish international is adamant overcoming Chelsea in the quarter-final could actually be the catalyst for brighter times on Wearside after a frustrating league campaign.
“Listen, it can never be a bad thing to win a cup or get as far as you can,” said Larsson. “That’s just a bad excuse for getting relegated. When people say ‘You’ll have extra games’ and all that, I don’t believe it.
“It’s easy to play football games if you’re winning them and much tougher if you’re losing them so the extra games don’t matter. This will give us all a big lift and the supporters too.”
After the euphoria surrounding the nature of the victory over Chelsea, Poyet has had the task of trying to turn his players’ attentions to the visit of Norwich on Saturday.
The Canaries, managed by former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton, have been inconsistent themselves but have recently started to collect the points to increase the gap to the bottom three to five points.
Larsson said: “We have to forget about the win over Chelsea pretty quickly because that’s a very big game for us when Norwich travel up here.
“We actually thought we put in a very good performance against West Ham but we obviously didn’t get the win we wanted or the points. Then obviously beating Chelsea will give us a big lift so hopefully it will be a very confident team that walks out on Saturday.”
Sunderland have struggled to score goals this season and looked incapable of creating clear cut chances against Chelsea until Fabio Borini struck late to send the tie in to extra-time.
After that great chances fell to both Borini and Ki before the South Korean eventually found a way beyond former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to help Sunderland progress.
“Hopefully it can spark us off now,” said Larsson. “Winning games is never a bad thing. The manager spoke to us about winning football games and said we hadn’t won enough recently and that is one in the bank.
“We just never gave up. When you beat a team like Chelsea there is no way it’s ever going to be a negative. It’s nice to progress and it’s a great thing to be able to say you’re in a cup semi-final.
“I know this club has been longing for a cup run as long as I’ve been here. We’ve got to the semi-finals now so let’s see who we get, concentrate on the league in the mean time and when the game comes around I’m sure it will be two great games.”
* Sunderland are hoping the midweek cup win will help bring back some fans for this Saturday’s visit of Norwich City, which is the final home game of the year.
Tickets for the game are priced from £10 for Under-16s and £25 for adults. They can be purchased in person at the Stadium of Light ticket office, online via www.safc.com/tickets or by calling 0871 911 1973.
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