SUNDERLAND ARE back in Capital League One Cup this Tuesday as they head to Stadium:MK to face MK Dons in the only competition they`ve recorded a victory in this term.
Sunderland reached the third round of the League Cup by beating League Two Morecambe in the second round. Karl Robinson`s Dons beat Cheltenham Town on penalties in the first round at the beginning of August before beating Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers 2-1 in the previous round.
In the league, the Buckinghamshire outfit have been impressive too, currently sat in the Play-Off`s in fourth place after eight games.
Sunderland have only faced as the Dons in their current incarnation twice, recording a pair of 2-1 victories during the 2003/04 season as the Black Cats returned to the Premier League under Mick McCarthy.
The club has however changed unrecognizably since then, moving into their own stadium after several seasons of being homeless. Robinson has also been able to bring in a couple of vastly-experienced big names to bolster an already strong squad.
The first to sign was former Leeds United, Newcastle United and Manchester United enforcer, Alan Smith.
Smith, 31, spent the final months of last season on-loan with the Dons, making 14 starts in the middle of the park before signing permanently this summer following his release from Sid James` Park.
A former England international, the Wakefield-born midfielder brings a wealth of Premier League experience to Stadium:MK, having made over 250 top-flight starts in his career.
Maverick midfielder Jimmy Bullard also joined Robinson`s side this summer on a free transfer, having been freed by Ipswich Town ahead of the big kick-off.
The 33 year-old is yet to make his first start for the club having signed on August 28, however the Newham-born playmaker has made two substitute appearances.
Injuries have severely hampered the former Ebbsfleet, West Ham, Peterborough, Wigan, Fulham, Hull and Ipswich man, who was once called up by England.
A set-piece specialist with an eye for goal, Bullard made just 12 starts for the Tractor Boys last term.
Club captain Dean Lewington had been with the Dons through thick and thin, making his first-team breakthrough as the club changed identity and were subsequently relegated to League One.
The son of England assistant Ray Lewington, the flame-haired left-back is one of the most highly-rated left-sided defenders outside the top two divisions but has remained loyal to his only club, making 384 league starts for the Dons.
A free-kick specialist, Lewington has bagged 14 league goals since debuting in 2003 against Sheffield Wednesday.
Martin O`Neill is without the services of Wes Brown (knee) and Phil Bardsley (ankle) but was able to welcome David Vaughan back into the fold against West Ham on Saturday.
Adam Johnson has returned from injury but is being gradually re-introduced to first-team action in order to prevent further issue. Carlos Cuellar looks set to miss out also with a hamstring problem.
The Dons have a fully fit squad to choose from after former Ipswich Town forward Dean Bowditch returned to the fold at Bury on Saturday, bagging a hat-trick in a 4-1 win for Robinson`s side.
MK Dons: Martin; Otsemobor, Williams, Kay, Lewington (c); Chadwick, Gleeson, Potter, O`Shea; Bowditch & MacDonald.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, O`Shea, Bramble, Rose; Larsson, Cattermole (c), Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher.