Bendtner: I can barely see through facemask
Published 22:30 26/03/12 By MirrorFootball
There is no masking the fact that Nicklas Bendtner enjoys something of a love-hate relationship with his most prominent piece of kit.
And as he prepares to bid farewell to his faulty facial furniture, there'll be no covering-up his delight if he can take another step towards cementing his place in Sunderland's FA Cup folklore.
The Black Cats' on-loan Arsenal star lines up against Everton wearing his protective mask for the final occasion - and not before time after it has brought him nothing but ridicule from mickey-taking team-mates and manager Martin O'Neill alike.
Bendtner has reaped the rewards of sticking with the comedy covering that's helped him claim three goals in his last five starts since missing more than a month with a fractured cheekbone and nose suffered against Swansea in January.
The six-goal striker hopes to find the net for the third straight home game to negotiate a way past their sixth round replay opponents to set up a Wembley semi-final next month against stuttering Liverpool.
The 24-year-old won't be sad to see the back of the mask, and he revealed: "I'll be wearing the mask for the last time on Tuesday night before I take if off for Saturday's game.
"To be honest, I can't see with it on. I give the ball away because I can't see sometimes, and it's not good because on other occasions, if you see a run, your eye then disappears in the mask and you can't see where you are running.
"It's difficult, and I think it was the first header on target I have had wearing the mask when I scored against QPR on Saturday."
O'Neill is among those left scratching their head at just exactly how Bendtner manages to find the net in the mask, and the Irishman added: "The mask's a pitiful sight. Honestly it is. I'm surprised Nicklas can see out of it, there are so many insignia on it."
Sunderland earned a battling 1-1 draw at Goodison Park 10 days ago thanks to a memorable strike from Phil Bardsley.
Bendtner expects another close encounter between two sides locked on 40 points in the top half of the Premier League table - whose last three meetings at the Stadium of Light have ended all-square.
The Black Cats last beat Everton on Wearside in 2001, and the Denmark international - who was linked with a move to the Toffees before joining Sunderland on a season's loan in August - added: "We go into the game believing we can win it.
"We've been thorough in our approach and have prepared for extra-time and penalties. We're a game away from Wembley and we know we have a chance to end the season on a real high.
"We know there's a massive expectation from our fans, but we're desperate to progress in the cup, and we've got to fancy our chances so we'll be giving it our best shot."
Skipper Lee Cattermole is set to return to the midfield after serving a four-match ban for his red card in the Tyne-Wear derby, and defender Bardsley is available after a bout of illness.
John O'Shea (hamstring) and Kieran Richardson (calf) both miss out. Seb Larsson is expected to reclaim his place on the right after being rested against QPR.
O'Neill added: There's no need for disappointment from any of the players if they don't make the starting line-up, because there are plenty of games coming up and plenty of opportunities for everyone to play their part."
SUNDERLAND v EVERTON MATCH FACTS
* Everton have made it to the last eight more often than any other side in FA Cup history (41).
* These sides have been drawn together 11 times before in the FA Cup, with Everton progressing seven times and Sunderland four times.
* In FA Cup matches against Sunderland, the Toffees have alternated between scoring one goal and scoring three. For this sequence to continue, they will have to score three on Tuesday.
* The two previous meetings between the two sides this season (one in the Cup, one in the league, both ended 1-1.
* The teams have met in three previous FA Cup replays, with Everton winning all three and scoring a total of 11 goals in the process. However, the last of those replay clashes came in 1958.
* Tim Cahill has bagged three goals in Everton's last five games against Sunderland in all competitions.
* Everton are unbeaten in 16 meetings with Sunderland in all competitions (11 wins).
* Sunderland have won four of their last six FA Cup replays outright, losing just one and progressing on penalties in the other.
* In all competitions, Everton have lost just one of their last five away games.
* Sunderland have lost just one of their 10 home games in all competitions under Martin O'Neill.
* On-loan Nicklas Bendtner has hit three goals in his last five games for Sunderland (in all competitions).