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Sunderland V Middlesbrough at Stadium of Light : Match Preview
Sunderland V Middlesbrough - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Victory the priority for O'Neill
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill admits he faces a "balancing act" ahead of their Capital One Cup fourth-round tie against Middlesbrough.
The Black Cats' form in the Barclays Premier League has been patchy and remains O'Neill's primary concern, with few goals scored and six draws to show from their first eight games.
However, O'Neill knows that winning some silverware will be a huge boost for the club after Sunderland lost out at the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup to Everton last season.
A worry ahead of the tie with Boro is that he has several injuries to consider, with a Premier League fixture against Aston Villa on the horizon at the weekend.
"I'm pleased to have the game. I would rather be in the competition than out of it," O'Neill said.
"Of course you want players who've had less time in recent weeks to get on the field of play and it's a fine balancing act but the most important issue is to win. It's a tough call.
"It's a tough game and we might have to make a couple of changes in our side and a couple of enforced changes as well. I'll see how the injuries are later on but there are a couple of players with a few problems but we'll go as strong as we can and try and win.
" I'll keep those to myself but I'm hoping there's one (player) that can come through that if not then too bad."
The prize of winning - a place in the last eight - is incentive enough for O'Neill.
He said: "Sunderland won't be the only club hoping to get silverware on the table. I can think of a few others who would be considered bigger clubs than ourselves who are finding that a struggle.
"For us the immediacy of it all is that it offers the chance of getting into the quarter-finals of the competition.
"That in itself should be a big enough incentive for both teams and that's the way it will go. A derby game."
Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray is looking forward to putting the pressure of the league aside as his men aim for local bragging rights.
Boro have been on the march in the npower Championship and four successive wins has kept them on the coat-tails of leaders Cardiff.
But they turn their attention away from their quest to return to the Barclays Premier League at the Stadium of Light and are on the hunt for revenge after losing to the Black Cats in the FA Cup last season.
"It's a game we are looking forward to, we went there last year and gave a decent account of ourselves. We were disappointed not to come away from there with a win," Mowbray said.
"But it's the next game for us, there's no points at stake and it is a nice break from the pressure of going for three points.
"It's a game in which the supporters and the team will want to go there and give a good performance and get a victory.
"It would be nice to get to the quarter-finals of a major tournament but it will be a big ask at a Premier League side.
"It is a big job for us, but we will go and give it our best shot."
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