VITO MANNONE says Sunderland’s woes in the Premier League relegation battle should not distract from their opportunity in the Capital One Cup.
The Black Cats face title-chasing Chelsea for the second time in 13 days on Tuesday night when Jose Mourinho’s side return to the Stadium of Light in the League Cup quarter-final.
Cup glory seems a distant priority for Sunderland, with Gus Poyet’s side stranded at the foot of the Premier League table and facing an uphill battle to extend their seven-year stay in the top flight.
But goalkeeper Mannone believes Sunderland have the chance to bring some cheer in a season to forget, by securing another cup upset after beating in-form Southampton in the last round.
The Italian told SportMail: “A cup run is massive for us.
“Hopefully it can provide a boost for the fans and more of them will come to watch against Chelsea.
“In a cup game, anything can happen.
“In the last round, we beat a big club like Southampton who are doing well in the league which tells you everything.
“We’ve seen the strangest things happen in the cups.
“Sunderland are still a big club even though we are where we are and we need to show that against Chelsea.”
Mannone was an unused substitute for Arsenal at the quarter final stage of last year’s Capital Cup, when the Gunners suffered a giant-killing at the hands of League Two Bradford City.
But this stage of the competition has been uncharted territory for Sunderland over the last decade.
The last time Sunderland reached the quarter finals of the League Cup was in 2000-01 when Peter Reid’s side suffered a 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.
And the Black Cats haven’t progressed as far as the semi-finals since the 1998-99 promotion campaign when Sunderland were knocked out by Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City.
l SUNDERLAND’S followers on the road are in line to receive further discounts for away games in the New Year.
As part of a Premier League-wide initiative to improve the overall experience for travelling supporters, Sunderland have already knocked £10 off the cost of tickets for games at Swansea, West Ham, Cardiff and Fulham for season card holders.
And the scheme will continue in 2014, with away games at Liverpool, Norwich, Spurs and Chelsea already earmarked for reductions on standard ticket prices.
Sunderland themselves are undertaking work to make the Stadium of Light a more positive experience for travelling supporters, including improvements to the concourses and bars.