Monday 11 December 2017

Liverpool cup clash to leave Arsenal facing fixture pile-up

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger

Luke Edwards

ARSENAL will have to navigate their way through a daunting February fixture list to keep their trophy dreams alive after they were drawn against Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The Premier League leaders could not have asked for a tougher run of matches as they play Liverpool twice, Manchester United and Bayern Munich in the space of just 12 days next month.

Arsenal travel to Anfield on February 8 in the league before welcoming Manchester United to the Emirates the following weekend.

The cup game against Liverpool comes immediately after that and will be played only a few days before the first leg of their Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.

It is a run that will severely test the strength in depth of Arsene Wenger's squad, with their most persistent critics arguing they do not, in contrast to Manchester City and Chelsea, have enough quality players to compete on three fronts.

Wenger has bristled at that suggestion and now has the opportunity to prove his confidence is not misplaced given it is highly unlikely he will be able to pick the same side for all four games such is the intensity of the occasion and the quality of the opposition.

With Chelsea also given an away tie at Manchester City, four of the teams harbouring realistic hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League were paired together. That will have gone down well with the other clubs left in the hat as it means two of the strongest sides, on paper at least, to have made it through to the last 16 will definitely be knocked out before the last eight.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez, who was manager of Wigan when they won the cup last season, has been drawn against another of his former clubs, Swansea City, in the last 16.

FA Cup fifth round draw

Manchester City v Chelsea

Sheffield U or Fulham v N Forest or Preston

Arsenal v Liverpool

Brighton v Hull

Cardiff v Wigan

Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton

Sunderland v Southampton

Everton v Swansea

(Matches to be played w/e February 15-16)

Irish Independent

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