MK DONS go into Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup third round tie against Sunderland with a great chance of claiming their third and biggest Premier League scalp in the competition.
Having enjoyed memorable second round wins against Blackpool and Norwich in the last two years, Karl Robinson’s men take on a Sunderland side struggling for form in the top flight and no doubt fearing an upset at stadium:mk.
With a place in the last 16 the prize, Martin O’Neill’s side are big favourites to progress, but Dons will fancy their chances of pulling off the surprise of the round – and if they do it will be one of the most memorable nights in the club’s history.
Sunderland don’t have a particularly good record in the League Cup. Ironically their only ever final appearance in 1985 saw them beaten by Norwich, who Dons thumped 4-0 to reach the third round last year.
While Robinson has masterminded wins over the Canaries and Blackpool in the previous two seasons, Dons have gone on to lose in the third round on both occasions to Birmingham City and Burnley respectively. But victory on Tuesday night would see Dons into the fourth round for the very first time.
The outcome could depend on what sort of side O’Neill decides to bring with him. The League Cup is arguably Sunderland’s best chance of picking up some silverware this season, and could prompt O’Neill into naming a strong squad to avoid the potential banana skin.
Will the former Celtic boss see the League Cup as a good chance of picking up the club’s first piece of silverware in 40 years, or will he choose to rest players with an eye on Saturday’s Premier League home game with Wigan?
If the line-up for their 2-0 second round win over League 2 Morecambe is anything to go by, then it could be a very strong Sunderland team that takes to the stadium:mk pitch.
That victory was their only one of the season to date, with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at West Ham stretching their winless Premier League run to 12 games – Steven Fletcher scoring all four of their goals in four draws this season.
However, the Scot is likely to be rested ahead of their game at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with Louis Saha or Connor Wickham likely to partner Stephane Sessegnon up front.
James McClean scored both goals in front of more than 22,000 fans against Morecambe, and Sunderland supporters will be out in force again with more than 2,000 tickets sold as of late last week.
The game looks set to attract Dons’ biggest home gate of the season so far, and if Robinson and his men can conjure up another Premier League ‘giant killing’ then it could be a game the fans talk about for years to come.