Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has his sights set on taking the Black Cats into the top eight of the Premier League this season.[LNB] The Black Cats are preparing for their fourth consecutive season back in the top flight, with Bruce guiding the Black Cats to 13th position after taking over at the Stadium of Light in June 2009.[LNB]The former Manchester United defender sees his target as a 'challenge' for the club and is under no illusions about the task ahead.[LNB]Bruce told the Sunderland Echo: "I think it will be very difficult for us to break into the top group, next season, though that has got to be the aim.[LNB]"They're some distance ahead of the rest both in terms of resources and of being established in the Premier League.[LNB]"They're teams that are either super rich or have benefited from the financial success that finishing high up the division regularly will bring."[LNB]Of the eight leading clubs last season, seven have been in the top flight since the Premier League was established in 1992 - Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Everton. The exception are the world's richest club, Manchester City, who finished fifth.[LNB]Bruce said: "When you look at the top eight, arguably the most vulnerable of those teams is Everton but they've had the advantage of being in the Premier League since it started.[LNB]"Being in the league year after year allows you to build and be established, it makes it easier to recruit players.[LNB]"Everton haven't been awash with the cash that the teams above them have but David Moyes is a top manager who has consolidated wisely and will be very hard to catch up next season."[LNB]Bruce complemented the work chairman Niall Quinn and the Drumaville consortium had done sine they took over the club just five year ago.[LNB]He said: "As a club, we are playing catch up compared to where we have been in the leagues and where we want to be.[LNB]"Hopefully we've jumped one of the biggest hurdles now in that I think we are now being seen as a genuine Premier League club.[LNB]"Hopefully by the end of next season, that will be a question that will not even be put anymore - if we stay up next season then we'll then going into our fifth consecutive season and I think people will be looking at us differently.[LNB]"There'll be no question Sunderland will be a Premier League club at that stage."[LNB]The 49-year-old former Birmingham boss is hoping that Sunderland will make a noticeable improvement on their travels after the club only won two away games during the whole of last season.[LNB]He said: "The first thing we've got to do is eradicate the awful performance that we still have in us away from home.[LNB]"We've got to eradicate this horrible inconsistency where we can be superb at home and very, very poor away. [LNB]"Overall, we improved towards the end of the season - statistics tell us that more than anything else - but the challenge next season will be improving away from home."