O'Shea sets sights on Cup run
John O'Shea is hoping derby victory could set Sunderland on the way to FA Cup glory.
The former Manchester United defender will take his place in the Black Cats' back four on Sunday hoping to continue their run of fine form with a fourth-round victory over neighbours Middlesbrough.
While O'Shea will take nothing for granted as Tony Mowbray's men arrive on Wearside looking for a Barclays Premier League scalp, he knows a place in the fifth-round draw would hand them a genuine chance of an extended run in a competition which brought him a winners' medal in 2004.
The 30-year-old said: "They are the games you play football for, whether it be the cup of the league.
"It's one that we are looking forward to - one of the players in the team in particular is making sure everyone is on the ball for that game.
"I wouldn't say you are relaxed as such because a derby situation is added spice to the cup factor, and also you want to keep your good run going as well.
"Some big teams have been drawn against each other again, and if you are in the hat for the next round, you never know, you could get that bit of luck as well and the next thing, you are thinking about bigger aspirations in the cup.
"That keeps the confidence ticking over for the league as well."
The game will be O'Shea's first derby encounter for his new club after he missed the 1-0 home league defeat by Newcastle on August 20 through injury.
As a result, he is relishing Boro's visit to Wearside even more than most, although perhaps not as much as Teesside-born former Middlesbrough midfielder Lee Cattermole.
The Republic of Ireland international said: "They are the games that as a professional, you want to be involved in.
"Whether it be Middlesbrough or Newcastle as the case may be, they are games you want to be involved in - and hopefully, you get the right result as well.
"It's one that we are looking forward to - one of the players in the team in particular is making sure everyone is on the ball for that game."
Manager Martin O'Neill will send his team out looking for a seventh victory in 10 matches.
Middlesbrough captain Matthew Bates says the clash is a chance to show his side can compete with the best teams in the country.
Sunderland are currently one of the Barclays Premier League's form sides having been revitalised under new boss Martin O'Neill, with ex-Boro midfielder Lee Cattermole playing his part as captain.
However, Boro are hoping to join them in the top flight soon, and Bates is keen to show the gap in quality is not as big as some might think.
"We have aspirations to get to the Premier League and this is an opportunity to prove to people we can play," the 25-year-old told club website mfc.co.uk.
"The gaffer's said to us, 'Let's go up there and see where we are and if we are where we want to be or if we're not'. There might be a few shocks and a few pleasant surprises.
"We're going there as underdogs, there's no doubt about that, but sometimes that's not such a bad thing. The pressure's got to be on them being at home and being a Premier League side and we're looking for a cup upset."
Bates feels that the home-grown talent in the Middlesbrough squad will serve them well, as many will be playing for the local bragging rights.
"We've got more local lads in our squad than they have and it will mean that little bit extra to us local boys," he said.
"But everyone out there will know what it means. Everyone in our team will be up for it and it's a big occasion for all of us. We're all really looking forward to it and let's hope we can pull off a shock.
"It's a huge game, especially for the fans. There'll be a great atmosphere, we've got 3,000 going and we could have probably sold that 10 times over."
Manager Tony Mowbray has some selection difficulties ahead of the tie, with striker Bart Ogbeche and midfielder Nicky Bailey definitely sidelined.
Ogbeche has been ruled out of contention with a hamstring injury, while Bailey still recovering from medial ligament damage.
Julio Arca's red card in the defeat at Coventry means he will serve the first of a three-match ban while Kevin Thomson's dismissal in the same match leaves Mowbray light in midfield.
Youngster Connor Ripley could start in goal for a third successive match with Jason Steele (thigh) and Danny Coyne (calf) still struggling.
Sunderland V Middlesbrough - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.