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O'Neill focused on European berth

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has urged his players to develop consistent form and aim for a European finish this season.

• Macdonald: Derby down to nerves

Ahead of the Wear-Tyne derby on Sunday, O'Neill says he believes qualification to the Europa League is a realistic goal.

He will be using the rise of rivals Newcastle from a Championship side to European contenders as added motivation for the Black Cats.

"We should take our lead from them in that sense," O'Neill said. "This time last year, I wasn't working, so I was looking at it from afar and perhaps when the results were coming in each weekend and Newcastle were still going strongly, I maybe felt, like a lot of people, they would do well to keep it going.

"But they did, they kept it going. They deserved all the accolades going, there's no question about that. That's not to defuse any situation, that's just how I view it.

"It was terrific. Alan Pardew won the Manager of the Year and deserved that, so it was a terrific effort.

"It should give us the type of lift that we would need around here because our aim is at some stage or another to be at least the best side here in this part of the world, that's number one."

Sunderland are currently sitting in 13th place and would go ahead of Newcastle with a win at the Stadium of Light this weekend.

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