Sutton United and Lincoln City will carry the flag for football’s little men into this weekend’s FA Cup fifth round. The duo from the fifth-tier National League take on Premier League sides as Lincoln travel to Burnley and Sutton host 12-times winners Arsenal.
It is the first time two clubs from outside England’s top four divisions have reached the last 16. “It’s a great opportunity to test ourselves against a Premier League side,” Lincoln striker Matt Rhead told the Lincolnshire Echo ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“We’ve done really well in the FA Cup games and you never know where it’s going to end up. People have written us off for the last three FA Cup ties so we’ve got nothing to fear.”
Sutton face the bigger challenge on Monday against Arsenal, who are 105 places above them on the English football ladder. Two things in their favour could be the plastic pitch at Gander Green Lane stadium and the Gunners reeling after a 5-1 Champions League thrashing by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
“This is going to be like the World Cup final,” Sutton manager Paul Doswell said after last month’s draw. “It is as big as that for us. To imagine Arsenal will be coming to our stadium, our Gander Green Lane little fortress, is just incredible.” Sutton have giant killing pedigree having famously beaten then top flight Coventry City in 1989. National League leaders Lincoln have beaten Championship (second-tier) sides the past two rounds and Burnley manager Sean Dyche knows first-hand the danger they pose.
“I’ve been on the other side of it, being the underdog as a player and manager,” he said. “I understand the thought process. “We make a good atmosphere at Turf Moor but with it being a cup game and with the Lincoln fans coming it makes for a good game, one we’re looking forward to without a shadow of a doubt.”
There are plenty of other upset possibilities as the remaining six Premier League teams still alive also play lower-division opponents. Four meet Championship sides with holders Manchester United visiting Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham away to Fulham, Manchester City travelling to Huddersfield and Chelsea at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wolves upset Liverpool in the fourth round and after losing midweek in the league to Wigan, manager Paul Lambert challenged his side to respond against Premier League leaders Chelsea. “If you don’t know what you’re going into on Saturday, you’ll never know,” he said. “They won’t need me to say what kind of game it’s going to be like or what kind of team they’re going to come up against. It’s a game where we will do what we can to try to go through – we’re going to have to play incredibly well and they will have to have an off-day but cup football can happen.”
The final two games see top-flight teams going against those from third-tier League One as Middlesbrough host Oxford United and Premier League champions Leicester City visit Millwall.
“We have to play at our best and hope Leicester don’t – we have an opportunity to cause a giant killing,” Millwall boss Neill Harris said. “I want us to be competitive and embrace the occasion.”
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