MK Dons will be looking to create history at stadiummk on Tuesday night as they aim to book a place in the fourth round of the League Cup for the first time.
The Dons have a huge challenge ahead of them though as Sunderland AFC take a break from the Premier League to make the trip to Milton Keynes for the Capital One Cup third round encounter.
Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill strengthened his side through the summer bringing in Steven Fletcher, who has scored four goals in three League appearances, Louis Saha, Tottenham full-back Danny Rose on a season-long loan and Adam Johnson, who is currently sidelined with a thigh injury.
O’Neill also has the likes of Sebastian Larsson, Titus Bramble, Frazer Campbell and Connor Wickham at his disposal. It is an enviable list of quality individuals that Sunderland possess but Dons boss Karl Robinson will be hoping the Black Cats play their strongest team to give his side the ultimate test.
Speaking ahead of the game the Dons boss said: “We usually perform well against the top teams – look at QPR last season, Burnley, Norwich and even the pre-season friendlies against Norwich, Fulham and Tottenham last year. That is why we believe we are ready to go to the Championship because we can compete with bigger teams.
“But this will be a completely different kettle of fish on Tuesday night, they haven’t won in 12 but Martin O’Neill has assembled a wonderful squad and it’s only a matter of time until they start climbing up that table.
“In these games I learn so much about the staff, the players, the fans and I learn more in these games, to a certain extent, whether we win or whether we lose because I will sit down with Martin O’Neill and ask a few questions. Hopefully that will make me a better manager – it’s my job to keep pushing my own skills to improve because that will ultimately only improve the team.”
Sunderland missed out on three points at Upton Park on Saturday when an injury-time Kevin Nolan goal earned West Ham a 1-1 draw while the Dons go into the game on the back of their first away League win of the season – a 4-1 win at Bury, courtesy of Dean Bowditch’s hat-trick.
Robinson added: “We hadn’t been playing badly and we were playing consistently. I felt if we had won the game it would have been a great start to the season but if we didn’t we’d have really had to have a look and said it wasn’t good enough. That is the fine margins of football. We’ve started well; we’re fourth in the League now.
“Obviously the win at the weekend has given us a tremendous amount of confidence. We can’t wait for the game; can’t wait to welcome the Sunderland fans for their first trip to stadiummk, hopefully they’ll enjoy the opposition they’re up against. I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to speak to Martin O’Neill as well; I want to pick his brains.”
The Dons have doubts over Jon Otsemobor, who hobbled off in the win over Bury, and David Martin, who missed training due to illness. Gary MacKenzie (groin) and Jimmy Bullard (knee) are both sidelined for the game.
There could, however, be a starring role for former Newcastle captain Alan Smith, who has a strong rivalry with Sunderland.
Robinson added: “Alan Smith will play a part tomorrow night; he will cause a few problems for them. We have a game plan; we know we have a good bench who can come on at the right moments to change the game too.
“We don’t have the strength in depth or the quality of Sunderland but we have heart and desire. It starts nil-nil and it’s 11 versus 11, the best team will win the game. They will make it difficult for us but we will be full of hope and optimism.”