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Bendtner could stay with Sunderland

Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner has backtracked slightly on his claim that he will be playing Champions League football next season by saying he could yet make his loan move permanent.

Bendtner signed for Sunderland from Arsenal in the summer after no club would meet the Gunners' asking price. Although it seems unlikely he has any future back at the Emirates, he still feels he has the quality to play in Europe's elite competition.

"I've never hidden the fact that I'm very keen to play in the Champions League again," Bendtner was quoted as saying in the Sunderland Echo. "But I also read that I'd said if I don't play in the Champions League, I won't be playing for Sunderland. That's not the case, but that's how they misinterpret Danish into English.

"As a player, you should have ambition - I'm sure every player you speak to wants to play in the Champions League. But I haven't ruled out staying at Sunderland. As I've said before, I just want to enjoy the year I have here and then see what happens in the summer.

"I am enjoying being the focal point. I don't mind that at all. But as well as you can sit and talk about things here, people will always look at how many goals you have scored. They don't look at your overall play. I have sort of realised that all people are concerned about is goals, goals, goals.

"You can play horrific but if you score goals it doesn't matter. That's very new to me. I tend to look at my overall play, so it's a new mentality.

"I think that it's going to be a natural development going forward because it has been a while since I played. But I'm seeing the signs, especially when I was away with the international team. It's going really well, so I just want to win a few more games and add to my goal tally.

"I always knew it would be better to play as many games as I could - no player is happy when they are on the bench. That's why I'm happy to be here playing football and helping Sunderland do well."

Meanwhile, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is confident the tide will turn for his players as they attempt to start their season in earnest.

He said: "I think they know. I only think we have played badly once, which was Norwich. In the games we have played, we have shown a bit of character and something about us.

"We gave a great account of ourselves at Anfield, we did well at the Emirates, we did very well at Old Trafford, where we could have picked up something. But the way we have played has encouraged me to say we are not far short. It will take a little bit of time.

"It's not psychological, certainly not. We have lost two at home [this season], and one of those was against Chelsea. We must improve on it, it can get better and if we have a really good home performance, I think that will just settle everybody down. Since the turn of the year, the home form has been disappointing, there's no disputing that.

"The one thing you need is to play well in front of your home supporters, but I think the vast majority can see what we are trying to do and see that we are improving.''

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