LONDON, Jan 26 — Manchester City and Arsenal take a break from an intense Premier League title race this weekend — only to face each other in a heavyweight FA Cup clash at the Etihad.
Holders Liverpool will look to avenge their chastening recent defeat at Brighton, while Harry Kane could become Tottenham’s all-time top scorer.
AFP Sport picks out some of the highlights ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup fourth-round ties.
Man City aim to halt Arsenal’s momentum
Unexpectedly trailing in Arsenal’s wake in the Premier League, Manchester City have the chance to slow the leaders’ momentum in their first meeting this season.
City are five points behind Arsenal, who have a game in hand, but the champions still have to play the Gunners twice in the league, making their FA Cup showdown a tantalising appetiser ahead of the main course.
Arsenal are riding high after victories over Tottenham and Manchester United in the league, while City stayed in touch after responding to a blast from Pep Guardiola by beating Tottenham and Wolves.
“At half-time the other day, Pep told us what he wanted, what he wasn’t happy with. As players we were not at our best and we had to correct that,” City defender John Stones said of his side’s fightback from two goals down to defeat Tottenham 4-2.
It would be a major statement of intent from Arsenal if they are able to put Guardiola in another grumpy mood with a victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Fatigued Liverpool on revenge mission
Jurgen Klopp said he “couldn’t remember a worse game” than Liverpool’s woeful 3-0 defeat at Brighton, a performance so wretched that Jordan Henderson labelled it a “really low point” in an already traumatic season for the Reds.
It is safe to say Liverpool’s trip to the Amex Stadium on January 14 left some painful scars on Klopp and company.
But the FA Cup offers them an unexpected chance to erase those bitter memories and get their campaign back on track.
Liverpool return to Brighton languishing ninth in the Premier League, 10 points adrift of the top four.
It is a remarkable fall from grace after they came within a whisker of winning an unprecedented quadruple last season.
Admitting Liverpool are still mentally fatigued from their bid for sporting immortality, Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara said: “It is not just about physical stuff, it is something psychological because we were so close to winning everything and we just touched it but sadly it went away.”
Kane eyes Spurs record
Harry Kane would love the chance to become Tottenham’s record goalscorer at Preston on Saturday.
Kane drew level with Jimmy Greaves on 266 Spurs goals when he netted with a superb strike in the team’s Premier League win at Fulham on Monday.
Greaves’ tally had stood untouched since 1970, but the England captain is now on the verge of sole possession of the record.
With fifth-placed Tottenham in the midst of a fight to climb back into the Premier League’s top four, Antonio Conte could rest his stars against second-tier Preston.
But, mindful of Tottenham’s surprise defeat at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round last season, Kane is keen to play.
“The FA Cup is important for us. It was disappointing to lose to Middlesbrough. We will see what the manager says but I will be ready,” said Kane, who is still looking to win the first major trophy of his career.
Manchester City v Arsenal (2000 GMT)
Saturday (1500 GMT unless stated)
Accrington v Leeds (1230), Walsall v Leicester (1230), Blackburn v Birmingham, Bristol City v West Brom, Fulham v Sunderland, Ipswich v Burnley, Luton v Grimsby, Sheffield Wednesday v Fleetwood, Southampton v Blackpool, Preston v Tottenham (1800) Manchester United v Reading (2000)
Brighton v Liverpool (1330), Stoke v Stevenage (1400), Wrexham v Sheffield United (1630)
Derby v West Ham (1945) — AFP