Can Wanderers be inspired by Premier opposition?

DOUGIE Freedman hopes jealously can inspire Bolton to an FA Cup upset win over Sunderland at the second time of asking.

Wanderers took a 2-0 lead in the original third-round match at the Reebok Stadium ten days ago, only to be pegged back by goals from Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner in the final half-hour.

The winner of tonight’s replay will be rewarded with a home tie against Everton and Freedman believes the prospect of another 90 minutes against Premier League opposition acts as a strong incentive for a squad that dropped out of the top flight last May.

‘‘To play these games against Premier League teams just reminds the lads what we’re missing,’’ said the former Crystal Palace boss.

‘‘It’s always good – I feel it just shows them we’re jealous of where they (the opposition) are and want to get back up there as soon as possible. It’s a little reminder of what we’re missing out on.’’ Bolton appear to be in a transitional phase during the opening months of Freeman’s reign, after the 38-year-old Scot replaced Owen Coyle at the end of October.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Millwall leaves the pre-season promotion favourites 16th in the npower Championship – ten points shy of the play-off places and eight above the relegation zone.

By contrast, Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland secured a fourth win in seven league outings by brushing aside West Ham 3-0 at the weekend, but Freedman remains bullish about his side’s prospects ‘‘It’ll be tough but, listen, football’s tough,’’ he said. ‘‘If you’ve not got thick skin then you might as well step out of this game because it’s a tough environment where you’ve got to match teams that are not going to give you an inch.

‘‘We feel in the first game we played very well for 70 minutes against a Premier League side. We were 2-0 up and I felt that we possibly deserved to take the game.

‘‘We’ll go up there full of confidence knowing that if we produce what we produced at home then we’ve got a chance of winning this game.’’ United States midfielder Stuart Holden could make his long-awaited return from severe knee problems having been named in Freedman’s squad.

Holden’s only appearance since sustaining a gash that required 26 stitches against Manchester United in March 2011 came at home to Aston Villa in last season’s League Cup, although a subsequent cartilage problem proved to be a major setback in his rehabilitation.

One player who will not be involved is Martin Petrov, with the former Manchester City winger in talks over a move to Primera Division outfit Espanyol.

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