By Tony Leighton
Burton Albion have huge incentives in both Sky Bet League 2 and the FA Cup, says captain Ian Sharps, as the promotion-chasing Brewers prepare to visit Championship club Bournemouth for an FA Cup tie in which victory would bring Premier League giants Liverpool to the Pirelli Stadium in the fourth round.
Central defender Sharps is chasing a third successive promotion from League 2 after his last two clubs, Shrewsbury Town and Rotherham United, went up in 2012 and 2013 respectively. He will not take his eye off helping Burton achieve the same climb, but he is nevertheless excited at the prospect of facing Liverpool.
"We're going to Bournemouth with a massive carrot in front of us," Sharps told football-league.co.uk. "Having Liverpool come to the Pirelli would be absolutely brilliant for the players, the club and the fans. But we can't get ahead of ourselves and we know what a battle we've got on our hands in this third round game.
"We're going really well at the moment, but Bournemouth are a different proposition to what we face week-in, week-out in League 2. They're a very good Championship side who pass the ball round with real quality and we're going to have to be on our 'A' game - but we'll go down there and give it our best shot."
Burton's best shot has been spot-on during the last couple of months, seven wins coming in an unbeaten 11-match League and Cup run that has not only put them in sight of a glamour meeting with Liverpool but also - and more importantly says Sharps - set them up for put them for a crack at automatic promotion.
With Sharps on loan from Rotherham in the later stages of last season, the Brewers reached the Play-Offs but lost out in the semi-finals to eventual winners Bradford City. A top-three finish is now the aim and the 33-year-old defender said: "We've definitely got a good enough squad to win automatic promotion.
"There's too far to go in the season to be making predictions, and it's going to be hard because other teams see us as a scalp now and they're approaching games against us with a different mentality. But after being at clubs who've got promoted automatically in the last two seasons, I want to make it a hat-trick.
"Burton are only a small club and we're punching above our weight, but the players deserve to be where we are at the moment. They're a good set of lads all working towards the same goal and, at the end of the day, you don't get promotion through the size of club you are - it's the players that you've got."
For all the latest news on Burton Albion please click here