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Celustka urges Sunderland to kick on from their cup success
ONDREJ CELUSTKA has called on his Sunderland team-mates to use Tuesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea as a springboard for Premier League survival in the second half of the campaign.
The Black Cats are looking forward to a two-legged semi-final against Manchester United after Ki Sung-Yueng's extra-time strike booked the club's first appearance in the last four of the League Cup for a decade-and-a-half.
However, any joy at the cup success has been tempered by the harsh reality of Sunderland's league position, which sees them five points adrift of safety ahead of today's home game with Norwich City.
The festive programme is likely to be crucial to their chances of survival, with today's match preceding away games at Everton and Cardiff and a New Year's Day home tie with Aston Villa, and Celustka is hoping the confidence garnered from Tuesday's win will help inspire Sunderland to similar successes in the league.
“It needs to be the start of our push to stay in the Premier League,” said the Czech full-back. “It was a great night for us, and it is great for the club to reach the semi-final. But we have to make sure it helps us when we go back to playing in the league, because that is very important.
“We now have Norwich at home, and hopefully we will take the three points. We have to make sure we really concentrate on the Premier League.
“We don't want relegation in the same year as a possible cup final. We have important matches every week now, and Norwich is just as important as the Chelsea game.”
Leaving aside their most recent league outing at the Stadium of Light – a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Tottenham – Sunderland's home form under Gustavo Poyet has been reasonably impressive.
They have won four of their six matches in all competitions, with their victims including Manchester City and Newcastle as well as Chelsea.
The challenge now is to start beating the sides in and around them at the foot of the table, a task that will almost certainly determine their fate given that they have home games against the likes of Crystal Palace, Hull, West Ham and Cardiff still to come.
“We have the quality in the squad to stay up,” said Celustka. “Just look at our performance when we started to play against Chelsea.
“I'm here in my first year and I have loved beating Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle at home. They were big performances for us, but we have to deliver those every week.”
Celustka signed for Sunderland while Paolo Di Canio was still in charge, but the 24-year-old, who is on a season-long loan from Turkish side Trabzonspor, has been impressed with the squad's evolution under the Italian's successor, Poyet.
“People and our fans can see that we are playing more football now,” he said. “We enjoy learning different parts of the game under this manager. We believe a bit more than we did before, and in each other. Hopefully, that will continue.”
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