Test of Sunderland’s mettle to avoid Bradford upset

Seb Larsson
Seb Larsson
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SEB LARSSON admits Sunderland face a test of character in this weekend’s FA Cup showdown after their defeat to QPR has soured any recent progress.

League One Bradford City will sense an opportunity for another cup giant-killing at a sold out Valley Parade on Sunday, with Sunderland at a low ebb following Tuesday night’s loss to a QPR side who hadn’t registered an away point all season.

The Bantams have proved their cup pedigree over recent seasons; reaching the League Cup final two years ago and producing one of the FA Cup’s biggest ever shocks when they triumphed at Premier League leaders Chelsea last month.

This Sunday’s game has all the ingredients for another upset – a ropey pitch, a hostile home crowd and a Premier League side unable to put their struggles firmly behind him.

And after seeing Sunderland’s confidence take a knock in midweek, midfielder Larsson knows the Black Cats must show their mettle against the buoyant Bantams to secure a place in the quarter finals.

Larsson told the Echo: “It was always going to be a very tough game against Bradford.

“And of course, you want to go into any game with some confidence having won games.

“Now we have to go to Bradford having suffered a defeat. But that’s part of football.

“You have to deal with it, show some mental character and go there and do well.

“Let’s not make up any excuses about the pitch or anything. It’s the same for both teams wherever you play.

“You’ve got to be better than the opposition.

“It will be a completely different game to the Premier League. We know that.”

Four points from the two top-flight games prior to the visit of QPR, looked to have provided the platform for Sunderland to attack the FA Cup with gusto and secure a place in the quarter-finals for the second successive year.

But with Sunderland once more precariously perched above the relegation zone, that fear of the drop will loom large as Sunderland continue their cup bid.

“It would have been lovely to move away from the relegation zone before the cup game, but we are where we are and we have to deal with it,” said Larsson.

“We can’t deny that we’re back in it. It’s only two points.

“It’s been like that on and off. We’ve got to five points, but then gone backwards to one or two all season.

“We just need to try to push on and see why these things happen.

“We get sucked into it after losing to teams that with all due respect, we shouldn’t be losing to.”

Larsson is a slight doubt to feature against Bradford after receiving a dead leg against QPR.

But presuming the Swedish international is given the go-ahead to remain in the starting XI, the 29-year-old will come up against ex-Sunderland youngster Billy Knott in the midfield battle.

Knott joined Bradford on a free transfer last summer after making just one first-team appearance for Sunderland, following his graduation from the club’s academy.

“It’s one of those things that when you come through an academy, it’s tough,” added Larsson

“You see a lot of good young players that don’t quite make it at the club they start at.

“In a lot of ways, you have to move on to start your career. Billy has not been too dissimilar to a lot of players.”