Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea must not blow FA Cup chance
The quarter-finals beckon for big guns in desperate need of silverware
THE PREMIER LEAGUE takes a break this weekend, unless you are a follower of Liverpool or Swansea, as the FA Cup reclaims the stage and most of the remaining teams battle it out for a place in the quarter finals.
There are six fifth round clashes this weekend and one fourth round replay, along with a solitary league match at Anfield - plenty to look forward to. Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea, for whom the FA Cup is the most realistic chance of silverware this season, are all in action and will expect to progress.
The tastiest-looking clash will be the match-up between the Blues and their local west-London rivals Brentford at Stamford Bridge on Sunday lunchtime. The match is a fourth-round replay, which Chelsea earned thanks to a late equaliser from Fernando Torres that made it 2-2 and spared them the ultimate humiliation.
Sadly for romantics it looks as though the Bees' moment has passed. The Premier League outfit are unlikely to slip up at home and look a more cohesive unit after two straight wins.
But, this is the cup and miracles can happen. Brentford are sixth in League One and will take heart from their performance in the first game, when they were 2-1 up with seven minutes to go.
A more realistic chance of a lower-league giant-killing comes at the Etihad where dysfunctional Man City face Leeds United of the Championship, who disposed of Spurs in the last round. It will be interesting to see how City boss Roberto Mancini approaches the game and how his players respond after the very public dressing-down he gave them last week.
Mancini, who is plagued by reports that he has alienated the squad, promised big changes after City lost badly against Southampton to all-but concede their Premier League crown. Yet, with the FA Cup the only trophy left to play for, he will still want to field a strong team.
Whoever gets the nod they will know that City's season will be over if they lose. And that could make for a scary atmosphere at the Etihad, one which Leeds will try to capitalise on. The City fans will be jittery and the players and manager nervy, so if the visitors go for the jugular early on it could pay dividends. The Yorkshire club will fancy their chances of getting a draw.
On Saturday, another club for whom this season's FA Cup is a big deal are in action. Arsenal take on Blackburn Rovers of the Championship, who are on their third manager of the season in Michael Appleton.
Arsenal have a big Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, and that could influence Arsene Wenger's selection, but the Gunners are unbeaten in five and look less flaky than they have at times this season, so should prevail at home.
After beating Liverpool in the last round, Oldham face more opposition from Merseyside as they entertain Everton on Saturday night. They might fancy their chances, but the likelihood of the League One side being able to pull off another shock must be slim.
Luton and Millwall must both feel slightly hard-done-by not to have landed a more glamorous team in the fifth round after disposing of Norwich and Aston Villa respectively in the last round. Both teams will believe they can win the clash at Kenilworth Road and make it through to the last eight, which would be a remarkable achievement.
Saturday's other clash sees MK Dons take on Barnsley. Liverpool's so called 'Big Week' has gone badly wrong: they lost to West Brom on Monday and then away against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday. They badly need a win against Swansea on Sunday to keep their fans happy.