London (AFP) – Lincoln manager Danny Cowley accepts his non-league side have just a “one in a thousand chance” of beating Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals but is determined they do more than just “enjoy the day”.
The Imps are the first non-league team to reach the last eight of the FA Cup, football’s oldest senior knockout competition, since 1914.
Their journey to the quarter-finals, which started in the fourth qualifying round, has seen them beat Championship sides Ipswich and Brighton before seeing off Burnley with a 1-0 win at the Premier League club’s Turf Moor ground.
For all Arsenal’s recent struggles, including a 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League that heaped pressure on under-fire manager Arsene Wenger, anything other than a home victory for the joint record 12-time FA Cup winners at the Emirates on Saturday would be a colossal shock.
“We understand that the chance is probably one in a thousand, but we will go there with the belief that this can be the one time,” said Cowley, whose squad trained at West Ham on Friday.
However, he added: “I would never do the disservice to my players to tell them to wake up on Saturday morning and just enjoy the day. We are professional people, we work every day for this, it is our lives.
“We have to put emotion to one side and will have clear minds on Saturday morning.
“We know what is in front of us, but it is not every Saturday you wake up with such an opportunity.”
Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker said the experience of playing another non-league side, Sutton, in the last round of the FA Cup would help the Gunners guard against any sense of complacency.
“They were all buzzing to meet us at Sutton,” he said. “They gave us a good reception, both their players and fans. This time we know our home ground better and we are excited to play in front of our home crowd on the way to Wembley.
“But the way they went to Burnley and won, in that fashion, that needs to be respected. We cannot underestimate any side in any league in this country, and that’s what I’ve learnt.”