Mansfield Town’s stand-in captain Krystian Pearce knows how high the stakes are when he leads the Stags out in tonight’s FA Cup third round home replay with Championship giants Cardiff City.
Premier League leaders Manchester City await the winners and Pearce believes being huge underdogs is an advantage for the Stags.
“All the pressure is going to be on them, so that should help us,” he said. “We should be able to play with freedom.
“Everyone is up for the game and wants to be involved.
“Confidence is high right now and I think we all know we’re capable of beating them.
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“Maybe we should have nicked it at their place. But I am confident we’ll do enough to get the win here.”
Pearce believes Stags will continue the counter-attacking game they pulled off so well at Cardiff in the first game.
He said: “It was a good team performance at Cardiff – everyone worked hard, We stuck to our tactics well and tried to nick a goal, but it wasn’t to be.
“I think it will be quite similar here. We’ll obviously try to hit them more on the counter-attack and try to stay solid and compact.
“I think it will be a good game and exciting for the neutral.”
The game looks set to be a sell-out in the home stands and he added: “The fans are going to be massive for us, and the more the merrier.
“Manchester City is obviously a massive incentive for us. At the moment they are playing the best football in the world.
“But we have to stay focused on the job in hand as, ultimately, if you don’t beat Cardiff you’re not going to play Manchester City. You can’t think too far ahead.”
Pearce has already come up against City in this competition while at Notts County back in 2011.
“I have actually played against Manchester City before,” he said.
“We drew with them 1-1 at home and then we went to their place and got beat 5-0. But it was a good day out.”
Pearce admitted he will be proud to skipper the side tonight.
“Obviously I am very happy to be leading the team out,” he said.
“It’s a personal honour for me to be stand-in captain, long may it continue.
“I think I’ve been doing well. Hopefully I can improve on performances and keep getting better each game.
“The boys seem to look up to me as an important player in the team so I try to take on that mantle.”
Stags extended their run to one defeat in 20 with Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Cambridge, but Pearce said: “I think we did enough to win the game.
“I think we were a bit unlucky. Obviously Rosey’s (Danny Rose) goal looked onside so we are all disappointed with that not being given. But overall it was a good away performance.
“Earlier in the season we knew it would take time for us to start gelling.
“But I think we are starting to gel now and have more of a settled team. We are starting to look like a threat to the league now.
“Last season we had a solid back four and the only difference to that back four at the moment is Hayden White, who was playing right back.
“But Ando (Paul Anderson) has come in and done well at right back, so I am confident we will be able to get more clean sheets.
“Clean sheets are the foundation of any successful team, so we base our game on keeping a clean sheet and trying to score a goal at the other end.”