Milton Keynes Dons take on newly-promoted Crewe Alexandra this Saturday as they return to League 1 action after their Capital One Cup clash with Sunderland during the week.
The Dons were knocked out of the competition by the Black Cats on Tuesday and will be looking to return to winning ways when they take on Steve Davis’ Railwaymen and continue their impressive home League form.
Crewe currently lie in 15th place in the table after their earning their fourth straight draw against Leyton Orient last Saturday, in what has been an impressive start to life in League 1.
The last time the two teams met was in March 2009 when an 81st minute Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty earned the Alex a 2-2 draw, a carbon copy of the scoreline in the reverse fixture earlier in the year.
The two clubs have only locked horns on three occasions but the Dons have never been able to beat the Cheshire side and manager Karl Robinson is aware of the challenge his side face.
Speaking before the game, he said: “I think a few people would have looked at the fixtures at the start of the season and seen this game as a banker but nobody at this Football Club expects it to be easy.
“They’re youthful, they’re fearless, very good on the ball. Some people may say they’re not experienced but most of the players have been there since they were eight so they’re experienced at playing the Crewe way.
“They play in a really good way and a way that I respect and so I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
“We’ll have to show them respect as there will be times when they’ll keep the ball just like we do and we’ve got to be patient. If we get impatient and break our lines they’ll pick us off so we’ve got to be reluctant in how we press and when we press.”
Robinson should be able to call upon David Martin and Jon Otsemobor after both players returned to training following their recent illnesses.
Defender Gary MacKenzie (groin) also trained earlier today but remains a doubt along with Jimmy Bullard who visited a specialist earlier this week with regards to his knee.
Striker Alan Smith was given the nod to lead the line up front on Tuesday night but will face competition from Charlie MacDonald and ex-Crewe striker Ryan Lowe for a starting place.
However, his manager praised the former-Leeds and Manchester United forward for his performances and character so far this season.
“Smithy made his name at Leeds as a striker, scoring in the Champions League and in other big games so he’s done it at the highest level.
“He’s fantastic in the air, he’s got a good touch and a good understand of the game and defenders get tight too him which creates space elsewhere.
“He is our number 9 cover, he knows that and is happy to do that. He can’t play every game but he can sit on the bench and make an impact.”
Abdul Osman is the main injury concern for Crewe ahead of Saturday’s clash with the midfielder suffering from an ankle injury.
Michael West remains sidelined with an Achilles injury and on-loan midfielder Chuks Aneke serves the final match of his three-game ban.
The Alex, however, have striker Mathias Pogba back after a six-game absence with a knee injury and ‘keeper Steve Phillips has also returned to training.