Bates - Boro have Prem quality
Middlesbrough's Matthew Bates hopes their FA Cup clash with Sunderland will prove their Premier League credentials.
Last Updated: 28/01/12 3:46pm
Middlesbrough captain Matthew Bates hopes their FA Cup clash with Sunderland will prove their Premier League credentials.
Sunderland have been re-energised under Martin O'Neill and are currently one of the form teams in the top-flight.
Boro, however, are closing in on an automatic promotion place in the Championship and Bates insists the gap between the two divisions is closing all the time.
"We have aspirations to get to the Premier League and this is an opportunity to prove to people we can play," he told the club's official website.
"The gaffer's said to us, 'Let's go up there and see where we are and if we are where we want to be or if we're not'. There might be a few shocks and a few pleasant surprises.
"We're going there as underdogs, there's no doubt about that, but sometimes that's not such a bad thing.
"The pressure's got to be on them being at home and being a Premier League side and we're looking for a cup upset."
Boro have a rich history of promoting players from their Academy and manager Tony Mowbray's first team is filled with local talent.
For Bates, and the core of local lads within the team, a win over their rivals would give them the bragging rights they crave.
"We've got more local lads in our squad than they have and it will mean that little bit extra to us local boys," he added.
"But everyone out there will know what it means. Everyone in our team will be up for it and it's a big occasion for all of us.
"We're all really looking forward to it and let's hope we can pull off a shock.
"It's a huge game, especially for the fans. There'll be a great atmosphere, we've got 3,000 going and we could have probably sold that 10 times over."